The format of the new ECB T20 competition

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Surrey v Hampshire (CC licensed by Ungry Young Man via Flickr)
Surrey v Hampshire (CC licensed by Ungry Young Man via Flickr)

Here’s a coagulation of plans, proposals, assumptions and best-guesses for the format of the ECB’s new 20-over competition which is due to begin in 2020.

  • Eight sides
  • Eight group matches each
  • Home and away local derbies (to permit that eighth match)
  • IPL style play-offs
  • ECB-produced TV coverage with some matches free-to-air

The teams

There’s an assumption that the league will feature city teams, but the terminology being used is actually ‘city-based’ which isn’t precisely the same thing.

There’s an interesting breakdown of what the teams could be from Nick Hoult of The Telegraph.

Based on grounds likely to host matches, he has suggested (possibly with some prompting):

  • Red Rose
  • White Rose
  • Birmingham
  • Trent Bridge
  • The West Country
  • North London
  • South London
  • The South

This list has a ‘working title’ air about it, but it does give an idea how things might eventually pan out.

It’s also interesting to take those sides and see who’ll be playing each other twice. Presumably we’ll have an extra War of the Roses, Birmingham v Trent Bridge and North v South London. That leaves us with the famously bitter rivalry between the West Country and the South coast in a fixture we’d like to see branded Battle of the Leftovers.


This format is a tad tricksy, but actually kind of vital if the league phase is going to retain interest until the end.

The first-placed team plays the second-placed team with the winner going through to the final.

In contrast, the third and fourth-placed teams have to get through two matches to get to the final. First they play each other and then the winner plays the team that lost the first v second play-off.

So basically there’s something to be gained from finishing in the top two rather than scraping through in fourth place.

Subject to change

We honestly don’t know why we report on these things sometimes. This’ll doubtless all be out of date by the time we click ‘publish’.

Loads of people are really angry

There are a fair few people who absolutely loathe the very idea of this tournament; angry to the extent that it’s like the ECB have said: “Put down the bat, let’s use the stumps as goalposts and have a kickabout instead.”

We are slightly nonplussed by this reaction because we believe that Twenty20 really can serve as a gateway format and Test cricket can never die.

Where some people get angry about the transient nature of a T20 match, we tend to see this as precisely the reason why the format won’t steamroller its way to total dominance.

Even if it does take on greater prominence in coming years, it feels like there’s a ceiling to what T20 can offer with the longer format retaining almost all of its unique selling points when set alongside it.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Assuming, say, for example, that the counties who own each of these grounds will also run (or benefit heavily from) the teams, how would such a proposal affect non-involved counties. I am thinking in particular of counties like Durham, Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Kent and so on, and on the effect this will have on their players.

    Established players with a degree of county loyalty might be able to get an exemption from their employer, so that a Durham player could turn out for the Yorkshire-By-Any-Other-Name White Roses. But young and aspiring players will simply not join non-involved counties. No matter whether they turn out to be short format players or long format players, at the early stages of their careers they will aim to join those counties that can offer the widest set of options, especially the more lucrative ones.

    So it won’t simply be an exodus of T20 specialists from Worcester and Kent, it will be an exodus of all the most talented young players from those areas. In essence, it will be the death of them, except maybe as perpetual second division sides providing a second-tier home for second-grade players.

    1. Squads will be entirely separate from counties. There’ll be a player draft at the outset.

      1. So the possibility of a Woakes c Foakes b Stokes (or some other permutation thereof) remains distinctly viable? I’m on board.

    2. Or do you just meant that the counties with grounds hosting matches will benefit disproportionately and become stronger in general?

      They do seem to be planning on playing matches at ‘out-grounds’ as well – i.e. the smaller county grounds.

      1. I meant the former, but the squad thing answers that I guess. It makes support a bit weird though, since presumably a good number of Red Rose fans will be existing Lancashire fans supporting an entirely different set of players.

  2. My main worry is that the schedule is already ridiculous. The CC gets pushed ever closer towards February. And this very week the ICC has been sweating as to the impact of T20 leagues on International cricket, including Test Cricket Wot Can Never Die. So what do they do? They jam in another league without getting rid of anything and expect it to work. Somehow.

      1. Oh probably, eventually. My worry then is that it’ll be some more of the County Championship.

      2. Crazy thinking, I know, but could the gaps between ODIs (of which there should be only 3 to a series, in any case) and the individual fixtures between smatterings of One-Day Cup matches, not be reduced? Are two clear days between matches really necessary?

  3. Red Rose Rain Ruers
    White Rose Wistful Reminiscers
    Birmingham Brexits
    Trent Bridge Tepid Brews
    West Country Weird Ciders
    North London Nationalist Lefties
    South London Suburban Luddites
    Southern Faeries

    1. We were wondering whether there was some thing or concept that could unite the whole of the North-West rather than the distinctly Lancastrian red rose.

      Meat and tatty pies? We hear they’re rarely sighted east of the Pennines or south of Crewe.

    2. Scratch that. According to Wikipedia, the produce of The Denby Dale Pie Company in West Yorkshire was voted the UK’s best meat and potato pie by no lesser authority than ITV’s The Paul O’Grady Show, so bollocks to that idea.

    3. Could argue that the main thing the various parts of the North-West have in common is that they’re not Yorkshire. Not sure you could hang your hat on that though.

      Also, most people in the region will remember Frank Sidebottom turning up on North-West Tonight every other day. Again, doesn’t really lend itself to the naming of a cricket team.

    4. Northumbria (yorkshire + durhamshire)
      Brythonia (Manchestershire)
      Danelia (Nottinghamshire + Derbyshire )
      Mercia (Birminghamshire + Worcestershire)
      Wales (Glamorganshire)
      Dumdonia (Somersetex + Gloucestershire)
      Wessex (Southamptonshire + Northamptonshire)
      Anglia (Surrey + Sussex)
      Cantware (kenturbury + Essex )
      Saxony (Middlesex + Leicestershire)

  4. It’s going to feel weird the first time someone who has been struggling for your county in the CC smashes a match winning total against your T20 team but I suppose we’ll all get used to it soon enough.

    1. It was wierd watching Bumrah bowl for Mumbai against McCullum & Finch (whose team I was supporting).

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