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Hussain a fan of Twenty20 cash pressure

Former England captain Nasser Hussain believes the fact that finalists in this season's Twenty20 Cup will qualify for the lucrative new Champions League will take the tournament to another level.

The ex-Essex batsman compared the semi-finals of the county competition, which starts on Wednesday, to the Championship play-off final in football which sees a team promoted to the money-spinning English Premier League.

"Sport is better when there is something big hanging on the outcome. The higher the stakes, the more intense the pressure and the more the character of the players is revealed," Hussain wrote in his column for Britain's Daily Mail.

"The winners of the cup, which starts tomorrow, get something like 40,000 pounds (80,000 dollars).

"But the two counties who reach the final will have the chance to earn 2.4 million pounds (5 million dollars) from the Champions League, so can you imagine the atmosphere if a team need four from the last ball in one of those semi-finals?

"What we will see is the cricketing equivalent of the football play-off final, with the winners going to the Premier League."

Twenty20, which was pioneered as a professional sport in English county cricket, has quickly become quickly popular around the world.

It led to the creation of a World Twenty20 and a cash-rich tournament in India as well as talk of matches between England and a Caribbean all-star side bankrolled by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford.

Into that mix has now been added the Champions League, leaving some to question whether five-day Test cricket, which outside of England and Australia, can struggle to draw in the crowds, has much of a future.

But Hussain said while he could not see the likes of Kevin Pietersen pulling out of Tests, Twenty20 might alter England players' contractual arrangements.

"I can see people turning down (England) central contracts and, in effect, going freelance to play where the best money is on offer at any one time," Hussain explained.

"Pietersen knows England would always want him to play for them so, in theory, he could make himself available on a match-by-match basis."

Hussain added: "There are concerns about the first-class game but I remain convinced that Test cricket will continue to prosper, at least in this country, and be treated as the pinnacle."

The inuagural Champions League will feature eight leading domestic sides from Australia, England, India and South Africa playing a series of 15 Twenty20 matches in either India or the Middle East sometime in late September and early October.

Western Australia and Victoria have already qualified to represent Australia.

They will be joined by South Africa's Titans, from Pretoria, and KwaZulu Natal Dolphins as well as India's Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals.

England's representatives will be the finalists in the Twenty20 Cup, which takes place at Hampshire's Rose Bowl ground on July 20.

source - afp.google.com
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