London:English cricket's domestic Twenty20 competition will next year take place at the same time as the Test series in a bid to keep fans of both the long and short forms of the game happy.
Asked to come up with a shakeup of domestic cricket to keep the domestic game popular, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Wednesday that a two-group Twenty20 competition would be staged in June and July of next year with no restriction on the number of overseas players teams can register.
It would not clash with India's successful IPL league, usually played in April and May, but would be at around the same time as England takes on Pakistan in a Test series.
Twenty20 cricket has played to sellout crowds because matches restricted to 20 overs each leads to big hitting and adventurous play. But ECB chairman Giles Clarke said it was important to safeguard County Championship games, played over four days, because it was the chief support to Test cricket.
Clarke said the ECB had decided against continuing with Tests early in the season because they had proved unpopular with fans.
"We canvassed a wide range of opinion and everyone was behind the principle of the primacy of Test match and County Championship cricket," he said. "It is important that the County Championship structure is maintained to support the England Test team. We all recognize that there is little appetite for Test-match cricket in early May and this structure allows us to play Tests in June, July and August."
The ECB decided to have two regional groups of nine teams in the Twenty20 competition, which would also be played in the middle of the season.
"We have also listened to the spectators and counties alike about the structure and the consensus was for Twenty20 cricket to be played in June and July with a final later in the season with the qualification matches primarily at weekends," Giles said.
Although there would be no restrictions on overseas players registered for each squad, there will be limits on how many will be able to play.