Back To The Future? A Plan For Domestic 50 Over Cricket

In the ECB’s brave new world there is very little to please the poor, beleaguered, run of the mill cricket supporter. The county championship is being ever more marginalised, the calendar is re-shuffled almost every year, and the ECB is intent on wooing a completely new audience. Current supporters are just expected to shut up and continue paying their money. How very football.

Instead of treating them with distain, maybe the ECB could placate its existing loyal fan base? The fifty over competition, likely to be sponsored by somebody other than Royal London three years hence (if sponsored by anyone at all), will be virtually downgraded to a second XI competition when the shiny new city T20 toy begins. So how about sprucing it up a bit?

This summer’s edition has proved entertaining but the format is staid and lacking in excitement. If the competition is to be a proving ground for young players, how about returning the competition to a straight knock-out format? And how about going one step further and including the Minor Counties and the likes of Scotland and the Netherlands?

Many a cricket fan can remember the days when Middlesex were required to visit Shropshire, or Nottinghamshire trekked down to Cornwall for instance. Most matches ended, as expected, in victory for the first-class county but, on occasion, the minor county produced a surprise to freshen and ignite that year’s competition.

Similar to the FA Cup in football, surprise victories are still discussed with verve and gusto amid supporters in the non first-class counties. Arguably that was part of the charm and nuance of the limited overs competitions in the olden days and still remains the charm of the FA Cup in football.

What’s more, if the fifty over tournament is effectively downgraded to a de facto second team competition then the non first-class teams will potentially possess a better chance of emerging victorious.

Ponder also what effect such contests could have on cricket as a sport in the non first-class counties? Cricket fans in Cornwall are unlikely to hike all the way to Bristol or Cardiff to watch the new T20 bonanza, but playing Sussex or Lancashire at Boscawen Park in Truro could prove a very palatable alternative.

In some respects, such a scenario could re-create the big day out atmosphere, providing an event in a location where it would likely be appreciated rather than another non-descript contest in a locale already saturated by a lengthy summer.

Although kudos for minor county victories would be slightly diminished because the first class teams would field somewhat weakened sides, and the scheduling might prove problematic, it’s still an idea worth trying – even though knock-out cricket seems to frighten first-class administrators worried about losing matches and revenue.

If the financial projections are to be believed then the brave new city T20 world, and its resultant financial bonanza for counties, presents an ideal opportunity to provoke the curiosity and interest of the cricketing public at large; to provide a competition of genuine cricketing interest rather than another designed to squeeze every pound out of the punters in attendance.

If the brave new world really is about growing the game, then how about growing it in nigh on forty counties rather than just eight cities?

Hector Cappelletti



  • And make the games on a Sunday only so people will know exactly what they are going to see. I’d quite happily limit the run ups and go to 40 overs as well. 2pm start and a 7pm finish. The John Player league format had a lot going for it. Free to air as well while we are at it. That’s what got me into cricket and probably many others.

    • I used to love the old Sunday League matches as a kid. You knew exactly what to expect … and you knew exactly when they’d be on!

        • Yep. I remember that there was always a good atmosphere inside the ground and we had to arrive early to get our favourite seats. I used to go to New Road, so it wasn’t one of the bigger grounds, but the car park was usually very full.

  • Can remember going to Taunton when Ian Botham, Joel Garner and Viv Richards were in their heyday and the gates opened at 10 for a 2pm start. As for the 50 over games being played on Sundays in 2020 at outgrounds, amen, even better if Dean Park (in the photo) is one of them.

    • I once played at Dean Park for Worcs U17. I bowled four tidy but wicketless overs and didn’t bat. Personally I was happy just looking at the scenery! Lovely old ground.

    • Some old out-grounds are gone forever e.g. Hastings (where I saw the last ever Sunday League match) was turned into a shopping centre.

      I’d love Portsmouth to stage matches again – it isn’t very pretty but it was one of the paciest pitches in the country. Even I’m not old enough to remember when Hampshire played at Cowes, but I’d go if they ever resumed! Not every out-ground is idyllic (I remember being very disappointed by Bath – although I saw Andre Van Troost bowl the fastest spell I’ve ever seen in the flesh there) but there were some that were lovely (Colchester was a very pretty park ground and Finedon was a delight).

  • Yes I’d back a return of the JPL – Lancs might actually roll back the years and put up a decent show! The one day format has been messed around with but never bettered. Barry Richards, Mike Procter and co – oh happy days. And 200 off 40 overs was considered going hell for leather!


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