Twenty20 cricket made its debut at competition level when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) introduced the format for professional inter-county matches in 2003. Primarily a 40-over game, it was intended to be a lively format of the game in order to draw in more spectators and generate more television viewers – as a result of which more revenue would be earned.
Known as the shortest cricketing format, T20 was introduced to replace the Benson & Hedges Cup after the tourney ended in 2002. Thousands of fans had been put off by the ‘boring’ longer versions, and needed a fast-paced, exciting form – and the ECB provided it with the Twenty20 Cup, which took off in June 2003.
Since then, the format has spread to the rest of the world – Pakistan established it in 2004, Australia in 2005, and the West Indies regional teams played in the Stanford 20/20 tournament in 2006 (a brainchild of former Texas billionaire Allen Stanford). It has also resulted in the formation of professional T20 leagues all over the world, such as the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), the Pakistan Super League (formerly the Faysal Bank T20 Cup) and the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
Here is a list of five of the biggest T20 leagues in the world:
5. Friends Life T20 (England and Wales)
Previously known as the Friends Provident T20, this cricket league is the successor to the Twenty20 Cup as the premier domestic competition of England & Wales in the shortest format. It also replaced the Pro40 League, and hosted its first season in 2010.
The league consists of eighteen county teams that play first-class cricket, divided into three divisions of six teams each. Former England players Chris Read, James Foster, Matthew Hoggard and Marcus Trescothick have led some of these teams. The squads can have up to two overseas players – classified as ‘unqualified’ – along with T20 specialists from both England & Wales.
Irish batsman Kevin O’Brien holds the record for the highest individual score in the league, while South African fast bowler Alfonso Thomas has taken the most wickets in a single season.