The International Cricket Council has moved forward the start of this year's Champions Trophy in South Africa by two days, an ICC official said on Thursday. "It was a unanimous decision of the ICC's executive board," an ICC spokesman told The Associated Press from Dubai.
The September 22-October 5 tournament, originally slated to begin September 24 will be played at Centurion and Wanderers, with 15 matches to be played in 14 days.
"As compared to the 2006 tournament when 21 matches were played over 29 days, this year's matches are expected to be of high intensity due to short and sharp format," he said. The event was moved from Pakistan to South Africa last year on security grounds.
"The Wanderers and Centurion have five-star facilities and the ICC is confident that the event will be as successful as the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 and ICC World Twenty20 2007," the spokesman said.
Defending champion Australia, India, Pakistan and the West Indies are placed in group A while South Africa, 2000 winner New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England form group B. The top two teams from both groups qualify for the semifinals. Final fixtures will be announced later.
The absence of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh means there is no need for a qualifying round, as happened at the 2006 event. "It is the second most important event after the ICC World Cup and the new format makes it very exciting and challenging," Pakistan's former test captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said. "The ICC has made the right decision by formatting it in such a way that every match counts.
"People want to see highly competitive matches and this format ensure that there will be no dull or one-sided games."