England Test players will be able to earn up to $4 million in win bonuses in an attempt by the English Cricket Board to safeguard the primacy of the five-day game against the threat of Twenty20.
The impromptu announcement by Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, came within an hour of the victory against New Zealand last week and more than doubles the money that the board will pay for success.
Michael Vaughan, the England Test captain, had earlier given warning that the 20-overs game is in danger of becoming the priority for counties in the light of the Champions League-style event to be inaugurated this year.
The finalists in the Twenty20 Cup, starting today, will contest a prize of $5million with the leading domestic sides from Australia, South Africa and the Indian Premier League in the autumn.
Money is flooding into the game like never before, with final details of the $20million Allen Stanford game between England and West Indies due to be announced today and David Collier, the ECB chief executive, hinting strongly yesterday at a ten-day window next April in which contracted players can make their fortunes in the IPL.
Sums to be earned dwarf those on offer to Test players at present. The ECB places $430,000 into the team pot for victory in a five-Test series and $360,000 for winning a three-match campaign.
The increase will kick off from the South Africa series next month. Clarke said: ‘It is a chunky pool now, going up to $4 million per year.
‘The game has moved fast over the past nine months in remuneration and opportunities, I would argue for the better. It is right that our players can earn significant amounts if they are successful. We need to go down the path with care and we are in a position to enhance the opportunities for our Test side.
‘There is an enormous commercial success with Twenty20, which we have encouraged, but we are going to have to ensure that pure Test specialists are looked after.’
If the Stanford tournament has left eyes popping among the England squad, then the Champions League will have the same impact at county level. The prize for the winners will be 25 times greater than the $200,000 on offer for winning the LV County Championship, a slog lasting from April to September.
Vaughan said: ‘It is exciting and it will put a little bit more pressure on the counties, but my only fear is that Twenty20 becomes the ultimate competition and that the Twenty20 team is more important than the four-day side.
‘There is a lot of money at stake and I hope that the Test side is still seen as the pinnacle.’