So it's finally here. The much-anticipated EPL has been officially announced, with the new domestic structure to come into place from 2010.
Overall the verdict has to be: this could have been a whole lot worse. In retaining 16 CC matches per side, the ECB have ensured there is still much to prepare players for Test cricket - and for connoisseurs of the 'old cricket' to enjoy. The new cricket, whether we like it or not, is Twenty20. The risk of overkill is palpable, but in light of the current lust for Twenty20 cricket, this overhaul could have been considerably worse.
Replacing the Pro40 with a new Twenty20 competition was inevitable and few will mourn its loss. The only shame is, despite being 10 overs less, it probably was a better preparation for one-day internationals than the Friends Provident Trophy. It is ludicrous that the preparation for the ODI game takes place in April and May - in seaming, swinging conditions that deter spectators and six-hitters alike. The Pro40, for all the lunacy of the format not mirroring ODIs was closer to ODI cricket in that it was played in batsman-friendly conditions that replicated the nature of the modern ODI. So England's ODI side is unlikely to benefit from these changes.
The chief mystery of the EPL concerns the two overseas teams. Having a team of 'Stanford All-Stars' would seem absurd - constructing a side from nothing would devalue the tournament to an extent. Yet given the lure of Stanford's dollars that is surely one very likely option. The only satisfying outcome which did not make a mockery of the EPL would be to make the two sides Scotland and Ireland.
If - perhaps through the funds they would receive from gate receipts - Scotland and Ireland had the means to ensure their best players played for them rather than their counties for the EPL, they would be able to muster highly competitive sides. An Irish side featuring Middlesex's attractive pair of batsman Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce, alongside William Porterfield, Niall and Kevin O'Brien and Boyd Rankin would surely finish no lower than mid-table in the second tier.
And the possibility for bringing genuine good to the long-term development of cricket is one that should not be overlooked. How receptive could Ireland and Scotland be to five home Twenty20s? If they were allowed to field full-strength sides and players dared to put them before their counties - even if just for a three-week spell annually - it could do a great deal for advancing cricket in these countries. This would be in everyone's interests, not least England's, who could one day find a clutch of Celts in their Test side.
So there is still much to be resolved for the ECB regarding the brave new world of Twenty20 they are so keen to embrace. How to distinguish - and prioretise - between the two competitions certainly promises to be a challenge for fans. But after all the speculation, the news that fans of all 18 counties will have a Twenty20 side to support certainly comes as a welcome relief.