Cricket's establishment stops the revolution and maintains status quo

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The Independent Online
The first-class counties and the MCC have decided against making changes to the way the County Championship operates. Yesterday they rejected a plan to create two divisions, but accepted a similar scheme for a National League of 50-over matches on Sundays. David Llewellyn reports

The ashes of cricket's revolution were swept under the carpet at Lord's yesterday. The bold talk of radical changes resulted in a radical status quo. The County Championship, which most had agreed needed beefing up to help produce more competitive cricketers, is to stay the same.

A meeting between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the First Class Forum, which comprises the 18 first-class counties and the MCC, voted 12-7 in favour of maintaining the all-play-all structure which has existed for more than 100 years.

The incentives to make it more competitive are financial. The top eight counties in next year's Championship will qualify for a Super Cup the year after, when this country plays host to the 1999 World Cup. The format of the Super Cup will be 50 overs and will, in effect, be the Benson and Hedges Cup from the quarter-final stages. The new two division, 50-over, one-day National League with promotion and relegation - three clubs up and three down - will start in 1999, with the counties' positions in next season's AXA Life League determining the First or Second Division of the new tournament.

The bottom four in the Championship next year face being drawn against one another in the following year's revised NatWest Trophy, instead of having the chance of playing a Minor County.

Lord MacLaurin's initial report, "Raising the Standard", had suggested a three-conference system for the Championship, with a complicated fixture schedule and a series of play-offs. Yesterday his Lordship, who is the chairman of the ECB, said: "The three conference [set-up] was a move towards more competitive cricket, but the First Class counties asked us to look again."

Lord MacLaurin then conceded: "The conference was not a starter. I would have gone for a two divisional structure and maybe in my lifetime we will get there. We will give this system three years."

Derek Pringle, page 28

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