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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Atherton favours new format
Nathan Astle on his way to a double century at record pace
Faster Test cricket could result from the new game
Former England captain Michael Atherton has welcomed the decision to introduce a new 20-over competition to county cricket from next season.

The First Class Forum, which comprises representatives of all counties and the MCC, voted 11-7 at Lord's last week to introduce the new format on a three-year trial.

"[It] is an attempt to deal with this fundamental lack of interest in county cricket - and for that they should be applauded," Atherton wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

I have always felt that good players will adapt to any circumstances
Michael Atherton
Total county attendances fell to 1m last season, and Atherton quoted figures for hid former side Lancashire in the County Championship over his 13-year career.

In 1988, 46,000 spectators watched the first-class game at Old Trafford, but that number fell to 27,000 in 2001.

And Atherton blamed a confused fixture list and an greater number of blank weekends, with the moving of some Sunday League games to midweek, as alienating potential spectators.

"The introduction of a midweek early-evening scramble is a worthy attempt to re-engage those lost to the game at the same time as trying to attract a whole new generation of cricket-watchers," he said.

Atherton said he did not agree with those, including Yorkshire coach Wayne Clark, who claim the shortened competition will harm techniques.

And he felt the move could generate more of the kind of cricket that saw lightning-fast double centuries scored by both Graham Thorpe and Nathan Astle in last month's Christchurch Test.

"I have always felt that good players will adapt to any circumstances, and 20-over cricket will be no different," he said.

"[Test cricket] itself doesn't change but the cricket in New Zealand this winter showed that the players' approach to it often does - and for the better."

See also:

11 Apr 02 |  Counties
Cricket votes for shorter contest
12 Apr 02 |  Counties
Top coach dislikes 'slog' cricket
16 Mar 02 |  England in NZ 2002
High octane cricket
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