Norfolk cricket followers braced for reduced Minor Counties Championship programme

Spectators follow the action at Manor Park where there could be a reduced Minor Championship program

Spectators follow the action at Manor Park where there could be a reduced Minor Championship programme from 2020 Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Norfolk cricket followers will have two less Championships games to watch from the 2020 season onwards if wide-ranging changes to the Minor Counties schedule are approved.

Plans for promotion and relegation in a shortened Championship campaign and an increase in the number of matches in the 50 overs competition are among the ideas that have been put forward by the Minor Counties Review Group and approved at a meeting at Edgbaston.

The Review Group has proposed that the Eastern and Western Division structure of the Championship should be retained but that each region should be divided into First and Second Divisions.

Each division would comprise five counties with the winners of Division One East and Division One West contesting the Championship final. The fifth county in each regional First Division would be relegated and replaced by the winners of the respective Second Divisions.

Each of the 20 Minor Counties would play four three-day Championship matches in the normal season, a reduction from the current six matches per county.

MCCA officials hope the proposed changes will produce more competitive cricket by ensuring that each county plays the other sides in their division and by playing three-day matches towards the end of the season, increase the availability of players.

The reduction in the number of three-day matches would be counter-balanced by an increase in the number of matches in the Minor Counties Trophy by reverting to a group format, with quarter-finals and semi-finals rather than a straight knockout tournament. Counties would be guaranteed at least two home 50 overs matches.

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The Minor Counties T20, which was re-introduced this year, would be retained with four groups of five – but with different ones to the Trophy – with the group winners progressing to Finals Day.

Other planned changes to Minor Counties cricket include revised player eligibility qualifications to encourage the development of more homegrown players.

The next stage in the decision-making process will take place in late November when the bid to fund the Minor Counties programme is presented to the ECB Board.

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