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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
County cricket eyes baseball
Boston play Baltimore in Major League Baseball
ECB officials will watch the Baltimore Orioles in action
English cricket is looking to baseball in an attempt to lure new fans to the county game.

Officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are to go on a fact-finding mission next month to look at the game both from a commercial point of view as well as the rules of the game.

"We're going with a blank sheet of paper," ECB operations manager Alan Fordham told the BBC Sport website.

"They obviously make it work in terms of crowds and entertainment so we'll look to pick the best out."

Fordham and David Acfield, chairman of the ECB cricket committee, will watch major league baseball when Baltimore Orioles play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Camden Yards.

And they will also attend a minor league game between the Richmond Braves and Buffalo Bisons on 18 May.

Alan Fordham
They get 1000s of people watching practice sessions so they must be doing something right
Alan Fordham
At least two recent county cricketers - Ian Pont of Nottinghamshire and Essex and Ed Smith of Kent - have had trials with baseball teams without breaking into the big time.

The average salary in Major League Baseball for the 2003 season is $2.3m (1.45m), an estimated 20 times that of county cricket.

Australia employed a baseball coach during their victorious 2003 World Cup campaign to improve fielding techniques.

"I've no specific ideas but they get thousands of people watching practice sessions so they must be doing something right," Fordham said.

The former Northamptonshire batsman moved to calm the fears of traditionalists, but said cricket had much to learn from the American summer game.

"I don't think anyone need worry - the basic way cricket is played won't change," he said.

"But cricket can get more complicated than simply the side with the most runs winning.

Ed Smith
Kent's Ed Smith played minor league baseball
"By the end of one game [of baseball] it will be interesting to see if I understand it - accessibility is important."

Fordham played a part in formulating the rules for the Twenty/20 Cup, a new 20-overs-per-side competition to be launched in June.

He admitted other sports were not examined in setting up the new competition but believed matches, which should last as long as a baseball match, would be a hit.

"It is short and sharp with a beginning a middle and a conclusion," Fordham added.

"That is what youngsters demand."

Traditionalists bemoaning the American influence on English sports should beware who they complain to, however.

The trip was the idea of Matthew Engel, former editor of cricket bible Wisden and currently the Guardian newspaper's US correspondent.




SEE ALSO
England takes cash hit
01 Apr 03  |  Cricket

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