Suffolk captain Adam Mansfield welcomes plans to revamp Minor Counties cricket in 2020
Suffolk skipper Adam Mansfield has welcomed plans to revamp the landscape of Minor Counties cricket from 2020 onwards.
After 124 years as the Minor Counties Cricket Association, the non-first class counties will be rebranded under the National Counties Cricket Association banner.
Instead of playing six three-day championship matches, the 10-team Eastern and Western Divisions will both split to two groups of five, meaning only four three-day fixtures each season.
Suffolk, who have been runners-up in the Eastern Division in each of the last two seasons, will need to finish in the top five this season to compete in Division One East next year.
The fifth-placed county in each regional First Division will be relegated, with the regional Division Two winners replacing them each season.
The 50-over Unicorns KO Trophy competition will revert from a straight knock-out to the old group format, guaranteeing each county at least four matches, including two at home.
The group stage will be followed by quarter-finals and semi-finals. Suffolk lost at the semi-final stage last season to Devon, who went through by virtue of losing fewer wickets after the scores were tied.
It is planned to retain the Minor Counties T20 competition with four different groups of five to those for the Trophy, with the group winners progressing straight to finals day.
It is expected that the three competitions will be played in blocks, starting with the Trophy, followed by the T20 and finishing with the championship.
Sudbury wicket-keeper and opening batsman Mansfield said: “I personally think it will make for a stronger championship.
“Although the number of games will be reduced, all fixtures are to be played in the school holiday period and hopefully this will lead to stronger availability.
“Teams will want to be playing in the top division and it will also allow for a more level playing field because you will have to play the four sides in your division to win it.
“I really like the group format for the 50-over competition. Currently, if you have one bad day, you are out of the competition and this could mean only playing one 50-over game a season.
“Having each format in a block will allow for coaches and players to focus on specific formats for a period of time.”
Although still being finalised, it is planned the Minor Counties will also play an annual fixture against first-class opposition from 2020 onwards.
If approved, Suffolk will be lining-up against a first-class county for the first time since losing to Glamorgan by 143 runs in the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy at Bury St Edmunds in 2005.
That was the last season that Minor Counties played in English cricket’s premier one-day competition.
Mansfield said: “It is very exciting for Minor Counties cricket. I’m not sure how first-class players will feel about travelling to club grounds, but for us it will be a great opportunity and experience.
“I’m sure it will be made into a big event where the county can promote local cricket and it will also give an opportunity for young cricketers to hopefully see some quality cricket.”
Suffolk will build up to their opening 2019 Minor Counties Championship fixture, against Staffordshire at Copdock & OI on June 23, by hosting Cambridge MCCU at Sudbury on April 21.