Kent keen on spreading T20 fare throughout the season

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The Independent Online

The first results of the England and Wales Cricket Board's ambitious consultation about the future of the County Championship suggest a majority will say that, since the system is not broke, there is no need to fix it. The ECB's futurologists are being told to get back to the drawing board.

All 18 first-class counties were asked to state their preference among five options, and it appears that seven have already declared that they are happy with the present two-division system. Supporters of the status quo are fairly evenly divided between the two tiers. There is no evidence that teams want a change to improve their status. Surrey, Derbyshire and Sussex of the Second Division rejected alternative proposals by the ECB.

Replies, which were given a 4 June deadline, were the subject of informed gossip in the dressing room at the Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells yesterday, where Kent are playing Nottinghamshire. Both of these teams, plus Yorkshire and Durham, are confidently expected to be against turmoil in the Championship.

At Kent, a consultation embraced committee men, playing staff and members. The consensus was that Twenty20 cricket should not be squeezed into a six-week package in June and July. That, they thought, meant strangling the goose that has laid a golden egg. Kent would prefer T20 games to be spread from April to September.

None of the five options proposed drew support from the counties that have reported so far. The options were as follows: two divisions divided into three groups; two divisions playing fewer games; three divisions playing five-day matches; three divisions of seven counties, and conferences leading to play-offs.

"Any system with less County Championship cricket and the members would vote with their feet. They would resign," says Jamie Clifford, Kent's chief executive. Since Kent lost £800,000 last year, they cannot afford to make a mistake.

Halfway through the Championship season, none of the First Division counties involved could attack Nottinghamshire's position at the top. Hampshire had a faint hope of catching Essex, three places higher in the table. Dominic Cork showed his all-round credentials with 55 and the first two Essex wickets.

Somerset have the best chance of improving their position. They could be within striking distance of Nottinghamshire if they take advantage of the dismissal of Warwickshire for 140 in a game dominated by the spin of Murali Kartik and Imran Tahir.

Having announced his retirement, Robin Martin-Jenkins showed how Sussex might miss him by scoring 130 as they built a strong first-innings total against Derbyshire. He was bolstered by Murray Goodwin's 121.

At The Oval, Surrey were being humbled by Leicestershire. Steven Davies scored 69, but the rest were nowhere. In Northamptonshire's strong reply to Middlesex's 347, Stephen Peters and Alexander Wakely both scored hundreds.

Only Sussex are in a position to challenge Glamorgan at the top of the Second Division table.