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Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Friday, 24 September 2010 14:20 UK

Twenty20 games could be cut to ease county schedule

Hampshire win this summer's FPT20 competition
Hampshire won this summer's Twenty20 competition

By Oliver Brett

England's domestic Twenty20 tournament is set to be cut from 16 group games to 10, BBC Sport has learned, after a summer of huge strain on players.

An England and Wales Cricket Board committee has unanimously recommended a structure for 2011 in which the T20 competition reverts to three groups.

The ECB says any changes to the format can only be discussed and approved by the management board.

They will meet on Wednesday and will decide on the 2011 domestic structure.

The County Championship is set to stay as 16 four-day contests in two divisions while the 40-over-a-side competition may face minor alterations.

By switching back from two groups of nine in the T20 competition to the traditional three groups of six, each county will lose three home fixtures and three away matches.

We saw similar total crowds across our home Twenty20 games to what we saw in 2009, but we had the costs of three extra home matches to carry

Yorkshire's Stewart Regan

But the majority of counties are happy to do so, after attendances at individual games slipped at a number of grounds this summer.

An insider told BBC Sport the new streamlined structure had received "strong support from the players and directors of cricket" when the ECB consulted 56 key figures in first-class cricket on Thursday.

Although seven of the 18 counties voted against the new proposals, they expect the ECB's management board to endorse the structure at its meeting next week.

The 2010 season gave county players their heaviest schedule in modern times.

The County Championship started unusually early on 9 April. By early June, as the players were set to embark on the fixture-packed Twenty20 competition, Essex had already played nine four-day games.

Their star all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate said at the time: "This year has surpassed any previous year in terms of how busy we've been and in terms of how little down time we've had.

"It came to the fore in our match down at Hampshire. You could see the guys were really tired."

Yorkshire players meet fans at Headingley
Counties such as Yorkshire are keen to maintain the interest from fans

Ten Doeschate's comments came hot on the heels of a Professional Cricketers' Association survey in which 80% of players felt the schedule was worse than in 2009, and many criticised the heavy workload they had to cope with.

"Players are inevitably going through the motions at various stages so the cricket's not as good as it could be," said one anonymous player surveyed.

"It's impossible to maintain intensity with the amount of cricket we play."

Outgoing Yorkshire chief executive Stewart Regan, who is leaving for a similar position at the Scottish Football Association, will be pleased to see the T20 competition reduced.

He told the Yorkshire Post on Thursday: "Eight Twenty20 games home and away has caused fixture congestion, lack of rest days and hasn't seen the upturn in attendances people expected.

"This year at Yorkshire we saw similar total crowds across our home Twenty20 games to what we saw in 2009, but we had the costs of three extra home matches to carry.

"We had just over 10,000 for the Lancashire game, which, given that the weather was OK was a disappointing attendance because we've had a full house in previous years."

Some observers will be disappointed to see no 50-over competition scheduled for 2011. National selector Geoff Miller believes it is "a problem" that there is no tournament that replicates the format played in one-day internationals.

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see also
County pros in schedule backlash
20 May 10 |  Counties
Players 'do not enjoy' Twenty20
15 Jul 10 |  Glamorgan
Guide to county cricket
06 Apr 11 |  Cricket
Miller worried by 50-over demise
28 Aug 09 |  Counties
Caddick raises Twenty20 concerns
27 May 09 |  Somerset
PCA survey underlines lure of IPL
25 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Players want less one-day cricket
03 May 07 |  Counties

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