The Benson & Hedges Cup was last played in 2002 and the ECB needed another one day competition to fill its place. Cricketing authorities were looking to boost the game's popularity with the younger generation in response to dwindling crowds and reduced sponsorship.

It was intended to deliver fast paced, exciting cricket accessible to thousands of fans who were put off by the longer versions of the game. Stuart Robertson, the marketing manager of the ECB, proposed a 20 over per innings game to county chairmen in 2001 and they voted 11–7 in favour of adopting the new format.

The first official Twenty20 matches were played on 13 June 2003 between the English counties in the T20 Cup.

The first season of Twenty20 in England was a relative success. The first Twenty20 match held at Lord's, on 15 July 2004 between Middlesex and Surrey, attracted a crowd of 27,509, the largest attendance for any country cricket game at the ground other than a one-day final since 1953.

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