The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has dismissed two newspaper reports about the format of its new 100-ball competition as “speculation”, adding that nothing will be decided until after pilot matches this autumn.
In a statement, an ECB spokesperson said: “No decisions have been made on the playing conditions for the new competition which will start in the summer of 2020.
“To develop the competition there are a number of on-going discussions, including one with a high-performance group who are planning a series of pilot matches in September.
“Conversations with players, host venues and stakeholders across the game are vital to the competition’s development and inevitably lead to speculation on a range of matters.
“Ultimately, it is board of the ECB which makes the final decision on the format and rules for the new competition and that is expected later this year.”
Originally planned as a city-based T20 to rival Australia’s Big Bash and Indian Premier League, the competition was soon shortened to 100 balls in order, the ECB claims, to make it more attractive to families and terrestrial TV, with the BBC sharing the broadcast rights with Sky Sports.
On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported the game’s governing body is considering allowing a substitute to bat or bowl for their team and The Times claimed it could be as many as four substitutes, which would effectively turn the competition into a 15-man game but with only 11 players allowed to bat or field.
The concept of a baseball-style designated hitter – a specialist batsman who does not have to field – would probably provide a few more boundaries, add a tactical wrinkle to the game and solve the problem seen in other high-profile T20 competitions of having highly-paid players on the sidelines.
The International Cricket Council also trialled this idea in 50-over cricket between 2005 and 2006, although the ‘supersub’ was dropped after 10 months.
The ECB is understood to be very much still at the planning stages and has still not settled on a name for the competition, although its working title is ‘The Hundred’.
What has been decided, though, is it will feature eight city-based franchises playing four games at home and four away (each team will play its nearest geographic rival twice), before the top four proceed to the play-offs where the first-placed team will play the runner-up for a place in the final. The loser of that game will then get a second chance against the winner of a third v fourth match.
This adds up to 36 games over 38 days which will take over from mid-July 2020 to the end of August. There will be men’s and women’s competitions and each team will be allowed up to three overseas players with squads selected via a draft system.
Among the key issues still to be resolved are what happens to the existing T20 Blast competition and county schedule, and the availability of centrally-contracted England players.
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