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Cricket News & Views

ECB decide to try split innings

THE ECB are to experiment with splitting limited overs county matches into four innings in 2010 with the possibility of introducing this format into the mainstream.

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Initially these games will be restricted to second-team competition, with a 40-over knockout being introduced for this purpose. The ECB said that firmer proposals would be announced in December, but there has been support around the shires for splitting the batting into four innings rather like a double twenty20. It is a novelty worth trying.

If the split seems to work well, one can expect an expansion because the format blends the best of 20-overs cricket with longer games. Many feel that this sort of arrangement would interest spectators more than 50-overs games at international level.

In first class cricket the ECB are continuing with using different match balls for first and second division games in the LV Championship in 2010, a second season of Dukes and Tiflex. As so often with assessment of cricket balls, opinion and anecdote varies like the ball itself. Dukes, in the top table, seems to swing less than in the past and has been criticised as going soft or losing its shape too early, an irritating problem throughout the Test series against New Zealand in 2008.

Tiflex, in the bottom table, is a Cornish-produced newcomer reputedly with an especially tough skin, but some people in Division Two, such as the Essex coach Paul Grayson, resent the guinea pig aspect while the Dukes remains the choice for Test cricket.

Some players have mentioned the Tiflex as being as hard as a rock, others complain that it has gone soft too quickly. Both brands swing a lot, and sometimes they don't, though most agree that the Reader's ball, now out of favour, rarely swung.

Angus Fraser, Middlesex's coach, offered a pragmatic opinion early in the 2009 season that action had to be taken to maintain quality with competition against Dukes, saying these cricket balls kept going out of shape in 2008. "Whether it was due to a poor batch or the size and weight of modern bats I don't know," he said, "but it caused so many hold-ups. Whenever a team went a few overs without taking a wicket, they started trying it on to get a different ball from the umpires."

So the ECB are giving Tiflex a second season in first class cricket, while Kookaburra continue to dominate the white ball market. Dukes remains the choice for Test cricket.

The ECB have set up working parties to look at the points system in the county championship and the player registration system, reporting in December, and they have announced that in 2010, if extreme strong wind is forecast that would preclude the use of mobile lights, the available overs in natural light will be split evenly between the two innings.

Powerplays in the ECB 40-over league will mirror the ICC on a pro rata basis- that is eight overs for the first Powerplay followed by two blocks of powerplay overs of four overs each. Hours of play for the league will remain as per the 2009 NatWest Pro40 except for an extra five minutes added to the interval. Hours would typically be 1.45pm-7.30pm for daytime matches and 4.40pm-10.25pm for floodlit matches.

The Second XI Championship will be split into two groups of 10 (North/South) as per 2009. The winners of each group will compete in the final. The format will be three-day matches with a four-day final. The Second XI Trophy will be split into two groups of 10 (North/South) with the winners and runners-up in each group progressing to the semi-finals. The competition will be played as a 50-over format.

Posted by Charlie Randall
05/11/2009 18:03:09

End of Caribbean rip-off in sight

REMEMBER the rip-off packages forced on England supporters flying out to the West Indies to watch the last World Cup? For next year's ICC Twenty20 tournament prices have been cut drastically, and it looks as though the Caribbean business community has learnt a lesson from the diminished revenues of 2007, especially in the hotel sector.

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And those stifling ICC ground admission regulations have been scrapped. Music and spontaneity will be back, and spectators should be left with more money to spend. Package prices announced for next year's ICC Twenty20 tournament have been pitched at about half the levels on offer for the World Cup, and the organisers, based in St Lucia, say that the official hospitality programme is already proving to be a crucial part of the tournamentís planning and delivery.

The packages are available both locally and internationally for the venues at St Lucia, St Kitts, Barbados and Guyana, with the West Indies Cricket Board designing, managing and implementing an official hospitality programme themselves for the first time. With whole region suffering during the economic downturn, the cricket will be very welcome on April 30-May 16.

The organisers have emphasised that the customary West Indian sounds and sights at every match, including conch shells, flags and drums, will be encouraged, not banned. The public ticket prices have been set low to focus on filling every ground with home fans and tourists alike.

At the Super Eight stage, every qualifying team will play in both St Lucia and Barbados. A suite customer will be able to watch every Super Eight team play, as well as both semi-finals (St Lucia) or the final (Barbados). With the exception of two match days in Guyana, every game day will feature double-headers, offering twice as much cricket for half of the price.

The tournament director Ernest Hilaire said: "The ICC World Twenty20 West Indies 2010 will offer great value to all spectators through competitive ticket prices, and the corporate hospitality sector will be no exception."

The hospitality programme will be centrally managed from the tournament headquarters in St Lucia, making use of an extensive network of international official hospitality sales agents around the globe to market, promote and sell official hospitality packages to prospective customers.

Tom Roche, another official, said that it was not just in the provision of a good hospitality programme that the region would be benefiting commercially. "As part of the management and delivery of the programme, local resources will be secured and some large contracts will see many local companies benefiting hugely from the presence of the tournament," he said.

"Event companies, caterers, hostesses, advertisers, printers, florists, signage manufacturers and a host of local administrators and suppliers will all be a part of the delivery and provisioning of the programme that will see at least US$1.2 million pumped in to the economies of the Caribbean."

The following tournament information has been issued by the organisers:

*On average, pricing for this tournament is almost half the cost of similar packages sold for the World Cup in 2007:

*A dining package to the final in Barbados will cost US$649 for what is essentially the same package in the same facility at the same venue in 2007 when the cost was US$1,299.

*A dining package to a semi-final in 2010 will cost US$449 (US$749 in 2007).

*A suite package in Guyana will cost US$800 for six matches over four days (US$2,200 over six days in 2007)

*A suite package in Saint Lucia costs US$1,500 for eight matches and both semi-final matches (US$2,600 for six matches and one semi-final in 2007).

*A suite package in Barbados will cost a customer US$1,800 (standard) or US$2,400 (premium) for 10 matches and the final (US$5,000 for six matches and the final in 2007).

Any parties interested in becoming an official sales agent are invited to email for an information pack.

Posted by Charlie Randall
09/09/2009 13:17:27

MCC thinkers fear for Test format

THE THINK tank of cricket, based at Lord's, believes the time has come to implement a world Test championship operating over a relatively short period of time.

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The MCC's World Cricket Committee, an unpaid voluntary panel with many of the world's leading thinkers at the table, noted that, apart from certain icon series such as the Ashes, Test cricket throughout the world, and in particular among the lower-ranked nations, was in very real danger of dying.

According to consensus, a World Test Championship would re-invigorate players, spectators and broadcasters for what is the pinnacle of the game. Every series would have a meaning, and every Test match would have a context. Players would have the motivation to compete on the biggest stage and would have an annual or biannual chance of winning the title.

Neil Priscott, an MCC official, said: "MCC research has proved that attendances at Test cricket have declined in recent years. In addition, there is a growing ambivalence towards the longer format of the game from cricketers in certain nations, with player surveys revealing that an Indian Premier League contract was the main career aspiration for many. Indeed, the World Cricket Committee noted that the IPL is entirely market-led, as explained by its Commissioner Lalit Modi at the meeting."

The Committee reckons Test cricket is not marketed sufficiently around the world, certainly not to the same extent as other forms of the game, and that crucial to its success is a focused and well resourced marketing strategy.

The Committee also believes that a trial of day/night Test cricket should take place within the next 12 months. Trials should be conducted in first-class cricket beforehand to assess the suitability of the playing conditions and the type of ball used. After hearing endorsements from Shaun Pollock and Steve Waugh, who had both been involved with trials of various coloured balls, the committee were unanimous in their support of the pink ball, which would enable Test cricket to continue to be played in white clothing. The committee feels that a trial of day/night Test cricket could bring new audiences to the game, both in grounds and on television.

The Committee expressed concern about overkill, financial imbalance and the attitude to No Objection Certificates. The panel believes that national boards must carefully control the release of their contracted players to domestic Twenty20 leagues.

The No Objection Certificates required from boards for the release of players for domestic Twenty20 cricket are crucial and must be enforced. Domestic leagues must honour the current agreement whereby cricketers without an NOC are not permitted to compete for two years since their last international appearance.

The Committee is deeply concerned that the proliferation of lucrative domestic 20-over leagues, such as the Indian Premier League, will lead to the premature retirement of quality international cricketers. Those from the lower-ranked Test nations could be particularly susceptible to such a career choice, based on earnings alone.

In 2010 international cricketers will compete in the Indian Premier League, the ICC World Twenty20 West Indies and the inaugural English P20 within a matter of months. There will be no sustained opportunity for these cricketers to play first class or Test cricket in this period. The Committee feels that this is too much 20-over cricket and recognises that players might be forced to make a difficult decision between playing for their country or taking the money on offer elsewhere.

Lalit Modi, the Indian Premier League commissioner, addressed the Committee meeting on the impact of the IPL, outlining the successes of the 2009 tournament and potential plans for expansion in the future. The committee was impressed with the aggressive marketing campaign which resulted in a 93 per cent attendance rate in the grounds in South Africa, with 70 per cent of this audience seeing live cricket for the first time. Test playing countries must be proactive in their marketing strategies for the longer formats of the game.

The Committee endorse ICCís umpire decision review system, noting three particular successes from the trial. These were an increase in the percentage of correct decisions being made, a marked improvement in on-field player behaviour and endorsement of the system from the umpires themselves.

The Committee was pleased to learn that ICC has sought to rectify areas of the system that caused problems or confusion. The Committee supports ICCís proposed use of the predictive element of ball-tracking technology for LBW decisions, subject to the introduction of enhanced software which builds in a degree of certainty and would still give the benefit of the doubt to the batsman.

The full list of Committee members:

Tony Lewis (Chairman)

Mike Atherton

Mike Brearley

Geoffrey Boycott

Martin Crowe

Tony Dodemaide

Rahul Dravid

Andy Flower

Mike Gatting

Majid Khan

Anil Kumble

Shaun Pollock

Barry Richards

Dave Richardson

David Shepherd

Alec Stewart

Michael Tissera

Courtney Walsh

Steve Waugh

Posted by Charlie Randall
14/07/2009 15:13:09

ICC Twenty: Referee's sinecure

NOT a single code of conduct misdemeanour was reported during the recent ICC Twenty20 tournament in England. It was a sporting occasion that made the referee job a sinecure, but the reason was probably that players did not have time to misbehave in this galloping format of cricket.

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The pace of the game means that bowlers do not spare the time to 'face down' batsmen for more than a few seconds, and so often other things are happening while the ball is live during umpiring decisions. And, needless to say, there were no bat-pad controversies because no one would dream of posting a short-leg unless the captain could find a fielder who was tired of life.

One gained the impression that 'walking' was quite common, a very laudable development, and perhaps the mindset was geared towards a short stay at the crease, so that leaving it seemed natural enough. This would not be the case in Test cricket.

The nearest form of misbehaviour I noticed was Sanath Jayasuriya blaming his bats for a shocking loss of form in the semi-final against West Indies at the Brit Oval. The left-hander changed his bat at least twice, holding up play for a considerable time while he tested alternatives. It made no difference as he scuffed around trying without success to middle the ball, but 'worker blaming tools' syndrome was not in the ICC code of conduct.

The ICC reported a 96 per cent sale of tickets for the tournament -- the double-header days were quite expensive for spectators. The group game tickets cost £60 down to £40, Super Eights £70-50, semi-finals and finals £90-50. There were big discounts down to about £10 for under-16s, and the no-alcohol family stands offered decent value, with £50 and £10 per child on offer for finals day at Lord's to watch Pakistan defeat Sri Lanka and England's women enjoying their glory. Admission for the women's group games at Taunton was dirt cheap, a fiver to get in and a quid for children. The games were very well attended by school children.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said that the friendly on-field rivalry had been one of the great aspects of the tournament, a very good advertisement to the watching public. "We talk a lot about the spirit of cricket and what it means to our sport," he said, "but ultimately it is down to the players to conduct themselves in the best manner, and I have been very impressed with their contributions in that regard.

"Sometimes when the heat is on and a tense battle is unfolding, there is a tendency for players to lose their cool, but that just didnít happen this time. It is great for the image of the game and how it is perceived by the wider public that this unique spirit is maintained."

The ICC's Welsh president David Morgan described the event as an overwhelming success and praised the efforts of the large number of people assisting the organisers. "Ticket sales were very encouraging, reflecting the enduring popularity of cricket, despite the global economic situation. There was a 96 per cent take-up of tickets for this event and certainly the atmosphere created by those large crowds formed part of why it was so successful.

"One of the most encouraging things about this tournament was the link between the menís and womenís games. The increase in profile the womenís game received from television exposure, and the fact the menís and womenís semi-finals and finals were played as double-headers was a great boost for the womenís game and I believe will do wonders for growth in that area. I am glad to say the next ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies will continue that exciting policy.

"On finals day at Lordís, it was pleasing to see the parade of many of the thousands of volunteers who took part in the event. Some of these volunteers traveled great distances Ė even from as far away as Canada and India Ė to offer their services free of charge to the game. Their contribution was vital to the tournamentís success, and it was fitting that their lap of honour was met with a standing ovation around that famous cricketing arena.

"And I think itís fair to say that in that regard, we have been royally treated over the past 17 days or so in England. The players brought this tournament alive with their innovation, passion, talent and commitment. They entertained us, thrilled us and occasionally even challenged our view of the game itself as they introduced new and wonderful feats of skill and athleticism that I for one had previously scarcely thought possible."

Morgan added: "The England and Wales Cricket Board has been a great partner for the ICC in putting on this event. From the very start of this process it was clear that we were dealing with a committed group of people Ė led by our excellent tournament director Steve Elworthy Ė who were determined to put on the best possible event and they were clearly successful."

Lorgat rightly paid tribute to the efficiency of the match officials. "I thought our umpires and match referees collectively had a great tournament. They can be very proud. The quality of decision-making was very high, but also there are plenty of aspects of an umpireís or refereeís job that are not so visible. How they interact with players on and off the field can affect how the game is played and I think our match officials generally have a good rapport with players. There is a genuine sense of mutual respect and, perhaps more importantly, a universal respect for the game."

CHARLIE SAYS: The atmosphere at the two grounds I visited, the Brit Oval and Lord's, was excellent. The stewarding seemed thoughtful and courteous, the take-away food looked appetising (though I was lucky enough to be fed very well by the ICC) and the modernised facilities coped well enough. If anyone has views on this, I would be interested to hear.

Posted by Charlie Randall
23/06/2009 10:37:39

Unlucky England slip-slide away


England 161-6, West Indies 82-5

West Indies won by 5 wickets on Duckworth-Lewis

JUST for the ICC Twenty20 duration the Brit Oval becomes the Oval again. All mention of the ground-sponsor insurance company is blacked out to ensure the name is not associated with the tournament to 'protect' the rights of the official sponsors. And out went England, beaten by the West Indies on Duckworth-Lewis by five wickets in the wet with four balls remaining.

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England played well and lost, suffering the worst of the conditions. Often pundits talk about 'which team turns up' when assessing Pakistan and West Indies, but England have been the high-low team of the event, completely and infuriatingly unpredictable. After a great win over India on Sunday, they are out of the competition.

Doubts lingered about England's selection. For example, number five still looked too high up the order for Paul Collingwood, and one wonders whether wicketkeeper James Foster should be selected ahead of Matthew Prior, a harder striker of the ball. I doubt if Adil Rashid is yet an international 20-overs player.

Against West Indies the top order played some lovely ground strokes, most notably Kevin Pietersen in his 31 off 19 balls. Ravi Bopara stroked 55 off 47 balls, which was all very well, but short of carnage. In fact in the second 10 overs until the final two balls England had hit only one boundary, a six by Owais Shah, before Stuart Broad clouted four and six off Suleiman Benn's left-armers to raise the final score to 161 for six.

The boundary rope was pushed fully out, to explain the dearth of sixes -- a welcome dearth in my view. The big shots had to be earned over 70 yards and more, and that meant spinners could be effective. The domestic county 20-over competition has been spoilt in some cases by a reduction in boundary distances to increase the six count. It was a marketing ploy by the ignorant, and fortunately the ICC have maintained the cricket integrity of this competition.

England's innings was interrupted by a half-hour blast of rain when the score had reached 129 for four in the 17th over, but no first-innings overs were lost, which showed gratifying flexibility in the ICC rules. Punters would usually prefer a full game, even if the game ends later than expected.

The West Indies were without their fastest bowler Fidel Edwards, nursing a back strain, and England galloped along without murdering an average attack. Shah hit his six with a typical leg-side pick-up. This was the shot that landed in a boundary fielder's hands against Holland at Lord's, but with an exaggerated follow-through he cleared the ropes here.

Shah was dismissed by one of the tournament's more sensational interventions. His middled pull off Dwayne Bravo flew like an anti-tank missile -- yes, I have seen one -- towards the midwicket boundary. It looked like six all the way until Andre Fletcher leapt high on the boundary edge to pull down a marvellous catch.

Broad supplied the England innings with a 'big' over, a few moments of brute force that could push up the final score a dozen runs above a par target. Unfortunately the weather spoilt an intriguing match.

Rain delayed the start of the West Indies innings long enough for one spectator to strip to his underpants and achieve a belly waterslide along the covers. Naturally I should be condemning this, but I can't. It was spectacular stuff. Anyway, the delay meant that under Duckworth-Lewis the target was revised to 80 to win off nine overs. With a greasy ball, England had little chance of halting an onslaught. They tried manfully and go out with my sympathy.

Posted by Charlie Randall
15/06/2009 21:18:34

Ryder illness could scupper NZ

NEW ZEALAND'S chances of winning the ICC Twenty20 dipped sharply when when Jesse Ryder was detained in hospital in London and ruled out of the tournament.

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Ireland took on New Zealand in the first day of the Super Eights at Trent Bridge on Thursday without having to face this intimidating left-hander, one of the world's best strikers of a cricket ball. Ross Taylor was ruled out with a hamstring strain, but the Irish were still heavily defeated.

New Zealand called up the Otago batsman Aaron Redmond as cover. Team manager Dave Currie said the diagnosis of Ryder's groin injury remained "unclear". A spokesman added: "It now seems likely that he is suffering from a significant infection. He has been in considerable discomfort, and medical advice is that he would certainly not be able to play in the Ireland game."

Redmond, already in the UK, joined the squad immediately. He was a leading performer in the latest domestic Twenty20 competition, finishing top run scorer including an innings of 100 not out from 58 balls.

Posted by Charlie Randall
10/06/2009 20:26:15

Dutch flop in sight of glory


Pakistan 175-5 (20 overs) Holland 93 (17.3 overs)

Pakistan won by 82 runs

THE DUTCH reverted to type on an overcast day at Lord's and threw away their chance of reaching the Super Eight stage of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament.

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The collection of amateurs who had wowed headquarters with a last-ball win over England panicked like club cricketers might have done and simply delivered the match to Pakistan on a plate. Holland did not even have to win -- they had to make 151 to go through on net run-rate.

Pakistan's total of 175 for five was always likely to be remain over the horizon, but the secondary target should have been achievable. So there was no rousing Dutch challenge to please the MCC members wearing ties with an 'orange' and gold hue -- and even the groundstaff were wearing orange as though giving tacit support to the underdogs. Sadly, there was a massive upper order collapse against the spinners, with Shahid Afridi helping himself to four wickets for 11 runs.

A succession of batsmen played wildly across the line. Even the professionals, Kervesee and Ten Doeschate, who should have known better, joining the mass rushes of blood as Pakistan cruised through. Slogging can be effective if the bat mows through the line. The occasion seemed to overwhelm the batsman.

If Holland had gone through, Dutch cricket would have taken a major step forward through publicity generated through the country's sports media. Their victory over England took them only halfway.

There were 'positives' for Holland. Their fielding showed the panache and athleticism that shone in their previous visit to Lord's, and the bowling was consistent against better strikers of the ball than England (minus KP) could produce four days previously.

As for Pakistan, while they have Afridi in the side, anything can happen, usually through his mighty hitting with the bat. Though rusty, they can hardly be written off just because they were thrashed by England.

Posted by Charlie Randall
09/06/2009 16:51:47

Dutch deserve more from England

HOLLAND beat England in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 at Lord's fair and square. The result was a shock and they should not have been allowed to scramble two runs off the final ball, but their batting down the order was superior on the day.

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Part of me rejoiced at this upset because Dutch cricket has been neglected and patronised by England's authorities and professional counties for too long. In fact, the indifference has been close to criminal.

Many people do not realise that club cricket has been played regularly in Holland for well over 100 years. The game was introduced by the British during the Napoleonic wars and took root. The Dutch Cricket Union was established in 1883. Yet how much progress has been made by England's near neighbour in all this time? Hardly any at all.

The Dutch did not lay their first turf pitches until 1997-- at Deventer and at their headquarters in Amstelveen. By 2008 this number had risen to only six such strips after more than a century on matting.

If England's counties had had their way, Dutch cricket would have made no advances at all. In 1995 Holland were allowed to compete in the NatWest Trophy, a knockout competition, but this lasted only 10 years before they were slung out. It was understandable that, with only one game guaranteed, they made little impact. After investment in turf pitches, the Dutch were hoping in vain for a chance to enter the Benson & Hedges Cup when several games against counties would be assured in the group stages.

In the current Friends Provident Trophy groups, Ireland and Scotland have been welcome 'outsiders' with the opportunity of competitive cricket against professional players. But Holland? No, not them.

Ali Bacher, while serving on an ICC development group in the late 1990s, pointed out the oddity of Holland benefiting so little as long-term neighbours of a major Test nation. He diplomatically stopped short of giving the ECB a real slating, but he made a plea for more support to be given to lesser nations. Privately he was saddened and a little angry at the English attitude. He said in an interview in The Independent newspaper that cricket was under threat and had to broaden its appeal. "In Holland, for example, they've had cricket for 100 years but there are still only 5,000 players," he said. It was indeed amazing.

The counties remain happy to sign Dutchmen such as Ryan Ten Doeschate (Essex) and Alexei Kervezee (Worcestershire), the only two playing championship cricket in 2009. Their playing experience at this level should strengthen the Dutch national side, but England's First Class Forum simply must do more, even if flights to Schipol drain more of the much trumpeted Sky Television money.

Posted by Charlie Randall
07/06/2009 13:07:32

Sri Lanka boost England's date

ENGLAND'S ICC World Twenty20 warm-up game against Scotland at Trent Bridge on Tuesday June 2 will now follow a match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka after they agreed to reschedule their date.

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One ticket will secure entrance to both games, and supporters who have already bought tickets for the changed match day on June 4 will be offered a refund or free upgrade. Starting next month, the ICC World Twenty20 brings together the worldís top cricketers, and this eagerly awaited competition starts on June 5 at Lordís when England play Holland.

Last week organisers announced the availability of newly released tickets for every stage of the tournament, including the opening game and semi-finals. Tickets are also available for the womenís group stage taking place at Taunton.

Posted by Charlie Randall
11/05/2009 19:07:59

More World Twenty tickets on sale

ORGANISERS of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament have announced a new release of tickets for every match day at the three venues of Lord's, Brit Oval and Trent Bridge next month. Seats are also available for the women's group matches at Taunton -- price one pound upwards.

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Tickets are available for the opening match at Lordís on June 5, when England play Holland, and for the group stage, Super Eights, semi-finals and final, for which all previous ticket allocations have sold out. This will be the last chance to buy tickets.

The organisers say all prices have been tailored to ensure a value day out for fans and families with nearly all match days featuring two games showcasing four international teams. This double-header format allows spectators to view two games for the price of one match-day ticket.

Ticket prices range from £1 to £6 in the womenís group stage and £8 to £60 across the menís group stage. All venues also have a dedicated family stand for spectators with young children where no alcohol is served.

Tournament director Steve Elworthy said: "We saw an unprecedented level of interest with our earlier ticket releases and I urge fans to get in early when this release of tickets becomes available. This is the last chance to join the action and take part in what promises to be an exciting ICC World Twenty20."

Tickets are also available for the warm-up matches on June 1-4 at Lordís, The Oval and Trent Bridge, including the hotly anticipated re-match between 2007 finalists India and Pakistan at The Oval on June 3.

For ICC World Twenty20 tickets

Telephone: 0844 847 2020

Posted by Charlie Randall
07/05/2009 11:04:52
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