The English â€˜summerâ€™ finally drew to a close today, at least as far as cricket is concerned. Predictably, Glamorgan were relegated in the Pro40 playoff, where the form 2nd Division side was guaranteed the home advantage in the competitionâ€™s rules. While I use the word ‘relegated’, a more accurate description for their performance against Hampshire would probably be ‘thumped’.
As a format, Pro40 has seen quite a bit of stick in the press. As a spectator, I quite enjoyed it as a competition. Certain aspects of our domestic season are to be taken as read. Firstly, we play too much cricket. This comes from the irresolvable situation where players and officials want to play first class cricket, whereas counties want to stage as many one-dayers as possible to draw crowds. Secondly, there are days and periods that simply are not conducive to good cricket, be that due to poor weather or diverted media attention.
Pro40 was tasked with several burdens. It was given the dregs of the season to pull in crowds that were increasingly drawn away by football and frequent showers, and an uphill battle to establish itself as a format. Where I feel it succeeded is in improving dramatically on the 45-over league of last year.
While placed in a part of the season where interest in cricket usually starts to wane, scheduling was quick to ensure that most of a teamâ€™s eight matches were played on Sundays. Although questionable as an international format, day/night matches at county level ensure a higher crowd, and sensibly all mid-week games were played with later start times. The decision to drop the amount of overs to 40 is one for which I have the utmost praise. I never understood the need for 45 overs. Especially considering the increased C&G 50-over workload, an extra five overs simply provides a drag on a game struggling to maintain Twenty20â€™s excitement.
There were also very few dead rubbers. Competition for places both up and down was still hotting up until the last round of fixtures. Although the decision to place the game on the last day of the Ryder Cup weekend lacked a certain amount of sense, the decision to have a playoff added the opportunity to retain a decisive season ender. Considering the third rule of domestic cricket is there is always someone who will disagree with whatever you change, I would much rather that the last ball of the season was bowled in a match that mattered than a game played for the prestige of finishing Nowhere Special, Division 2.