On the Front Foot: ECB at sixes and sevens over Test and county shake-up

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The Independent Online

On two occasions last week, English cricket took the breath away. On neither was it connected with the indubitable calibre of Jimmy Anderson's swing bowling. Rather, it was all about the way that the game is run in this country and whether there is a coherent strategy that will secure the future. The first occasion was on Wednesday evening when it was divulged that the England and Wales Cricket Board have decided that there will be three, instead of four, domestic competitions next summer. Two of the tournaments will be the County Championship and the new all-singing, all-dancing (one suspects it may sing like Sid Vicious and dance like John Sergeant) domestic Twenty20 Cup, to be known as the T20P20. The ECB like to think that they have protected the primacy of Test cricket and the County Championship which feeds it. But it seems they will have to play the bulk of the Championship in April, May, August and September. Not before time, it seems that Test cricket in May has been terminated. Seven Test matches will (after next year) be played in June, July and August, meaning that one will follow another in fairly short order, taking the breath away in several ways. The precise identity of the third competition is unknown but it will be a Sunday League, presumably also played either side of the T20P20. It almost certainly will not be a 50-over format, which means that county cricketers will have no way of preparing for international one-day cricket. All this was still swirling in the mind when the ECB announced their half-formed Test programme for the years 2010 to 2016. For instance, they already know (subject to ratification) that two of the Ashes Tests in 2016 will be played at Lord's and The Oval. But they do not know whether Lord's will have an Ashes match in 2013, though (hurrah) Durham will, and nor do they know which poor sucker will agree to stage a so-called Test against Bangladesh next June.

Hughes isn't the only twit

In future, OTFF may have to come to you courtesy of twittering, which it seems has become de rigueur (if that is a twitter sort of phrase) in imparting what used to be called the athletics intelligence. Phillip Hughes, the dropped Australian opener, was at it and let the world know about his omission from the Third Test before Ricky Ponting handed over the teamsheet. Two of England's finest, Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson, are regular twitterers, between darts contests, and Swann's latest aspiration is to ensure more folk see his twitters than those of Jimmy. Perhaps by way of saving Test cricket, Andrew Strauss could begin twittering from the middle. Do not think, if they seriously think pink balls is the way, it will not happen.

Sladen does another turn

It has been a distinctly quiet week in the On The Front Foot poetry competition. Only Chris Sladen, a former entrant, seems intent on snaring the two big match tickets which are on offer as the prize with this likeable new offering:

As a batsman, young Nathan Hauritz, Only rarely slogs four it's True. However, his offbreaks are as Tricksy as are Monty Panesar's.

Crossing the boundaries

Of Australia's first-innings runs at Edgbaston, 152, or 57.7 per cent, were scored in boundaries. This seems plenty but is actually quite normal. This is the first decade in which more than half the runs in Test cricket have been scored in boundaries, though in the first two matches of this series the 1,242 boundary runs represented a mere 45.70 per cent.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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