Cricket: Counties return to old B&H format

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The Independent Online
THE ENGLAND and Wales Cricket Board yesterday agreed to restore the Benson and Hedges Cup to its original format after pressure from the first-class counties.

The Benson and Hedges Cup was abandoned for this season as part of the attempts to streamline the domestic structure and replaced with the Super Cup, competed for by the top-eight finishers in the Championship. But the counties have voted for a return to the original structure, which includes a zonal qualification system to the quarter-finals and will conclude with a final at Lord's.

"Many felt that the zonal stages of the Benson and Hedges competition add real value for county members and a clear majority were in favour of expansion beyond its present form," Tim Lamb, the ECB's chief executive, said.

The decision is sure to annoy the England hierarchy, who wanted a reduction in fixtures to ease the workload on their leading and emerging players, some of whom will not return from the winter trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe until the end of February.

England have delayed expected announcements about their selection panel and appointments for this winter.

The England and Wales Cricket Board was expected to announce changes to the selectors' line-up and the staff for the senior, A team and under- 19 tours later this year. But instead, they have delayed any decision until they have further discussions on both issues.

In Colombo, Sri Lanka's new captain Sanath Jayasuriya said it was a "big challenge" to lift his country's fortunes and was looking forward to the return of Dav Whatmore as coach.

"To captain Sri Lanka is a great honour," he said, "but at the moment we are down and we have a job ahead of us. It's a big challenge."