Friday night will become Twenty20 night in county cricket from 2014 as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's attempts to revive the popularity of the game's original T20 competition.
The ECB and the 18 first-class counties have responded to falling crowds and growing criticism of a format which concentrated all the group matches into a short period in June and July with a revamp that gives each county seven home fixtures, at least five of which will be played in the popular Friday-night slot throughout the summer.
That will be the most conspicuous change in the new-look county programme which has finally been agreed after lengthy research initially led by the former ECB chairman David Morgan before a survey which attracted more than 25,000 responses.
Attempts to reduce the number of four-day fixtures in the championship from 16 to 14 have been defeated by the preference of a majority of players and supporters for the status quo, so the two nine-team divisions will stay, as will the two-up-two-down system of promotion and relegation. But there should be some much needed and overdue simplicity in the fixture list as all championship matches will run from Sunday to Wednesday until the closing stages of the season.
That also scotches the suggestions that there would be little county cricket remaining at the weekends. Saturdays will remain mostly fallow, as they have been in recent years, but county members will now be guaranteed an increase in championship cricket on Sundays.
That condemns the days of the John Player League on Sunday afternoons even more firmly to the history books. The Twenty20 competition will effectively become the one-day league that runs through the bulk of the season. What had most recently been the Clydesdale Bank 40-over competition will revert to the CB50, a change which suits England as it means domestic one-day cricket will be played under the same regulations as one-day internationals.
Each county will play eight group fixtures – four at home and four away – that are expected to be staged in a block in July and August, coinciding with the school holidays, and leading quickly to an expanded knockout stage including quarter-finals as well as semi-finals and a Lord's final in September. The counties hope that will help to revive interest in that competition and especially the final which has traditionally formed the climax of the domestic season but has faded badly in recent years. The Twenty20 competition will retain its finals day in August, including two semi-finals and a final.
Richard Gould, the chief executive of Surrey, suggested that the counties are happy with the new arrangements, especially for regular Friday night cricket. "It has been comprehensively proved that T20 games staged at the end of the week attract far larger crowds and I am confident we will be able to double footfall at our matches and begin to create more long-term Surrey supporters," he said.
David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, said: "The research study conducted by Populus was the largest piece of market research ever conducted on county cricket. The results provided objective evidence for the board concerning the preferences of spectators in support of the conclusions reached in the Morgan Review. The board agreed with the views of spectators and players in retaining a 16-match LV County Championship, which has proven very successful since its introduction in 2000."
Sky, which had been thought to form the major obstacle to change, has been involved in the discussions and is happy with a restructure which will allow it to select the odd T20 game for coverage on midweek nights and weekend afternoons, and to have a solid bank of more meaningful CB50 fixtures in July and August. Friday T20 matches will clash with its Super League coverage through the spring and summer, but that will cause serious logistical issues only for Yorkshire and Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.
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