ECB weigh up changes to knockout rounds of Twenty20 Blast to give divisional winners automatic qualification for finals day
The ECB are considering changing the knockout rounds of the Twenty20 Blast to give each divisional winner automatic qualification for finals day.
Worcestershire Rapids and Essex Eagles will both be competing for the trophy with Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Derbyshire Falcons at Edgbaston on Saturday despite having finished fourth in the north and south groups respectively, with group winners Lancashire Lightening and Sussex Sharks eliminated at the quarter-final stage.
The Blast has been a huge success this season in its last year before it faces competition from the new Hundred tournament, with aggregate attendances up significantly and record crowds delivered at Lord's, The Oval and Old Trafford, but there is a growing feeling that the knockout formula needs to be altered.
The ECB are considering alternative formats to the knockout stage of the Twenty20 Blast
Sportsmail has learned that ECB executives have raised the issue that winning the regionalised north and south divisions brings insufficient reward at present, which some feel is particularly unfair given the winners came through a lengthy group phase involving 14 matches.
The only advantage accrued from winning the group currently is a home quarter-final, although Lancashire lost that privilege this season when their last-eight meeting with Essex was moved to Durham because of a clash with the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.
The ECB are understood to be discussing a number of alternatives to the straight knockout system used at present.
Lancashire Lightning topped their group but were then eliminated by Essex
Under one model being considered the winners of the north and south divisions would advance straight to finals' day without having to play a quarter-final.
The teams finishing third and fourth in each group would play off, with the winners of that tie and both group runners-up then contesting a qualifying semi-final for finals' day.
The ECB have already shown their willingness to experiment with traditional knockout formats in their scheduling of the Hundred, which will only have one semi-final.
The winners of the eight-team league comprising new city-based franchises will qualify for the final, with those finishing second and third playing off in a single game for the right to meet them.
The final decision on altering the format of the Twenty20 Blast will be taken by all 18 first class counties.