September 30, 2022
Six-team County Championship Division One and Blast reduction amid high performance review recommendations

Among the 17 recommendations made in the Men’s High-Performance Review, the new-look County Championship included a six-team first division, Kookaburra red ball trials and reducing T20 blast fixtures from 14 to 10. ECB on Thursday.

The review, which was colloquially described as a “red-ball reset”, was commissioned in the wake of England’s crushing defeat in the Ashes in January, and was led by former England captain Andrew Strauss, who Also served as interim director of cricket. The sacking of Ashley Giles at the start of the year.

The report’s recommendations are divided into four categories, covering the specifics of high performance, the need to equip players to compete in all conditions around the world, the creation of a domestic structure that “counties, The best for players, fans and the England men’s team”, and needs to inspire future generations to embrace the sport at large.

Speaking at Lord’s on the eve of publication, Strauss insisted that it was now the first-class counties’ responsibility to digest their recommendations, particularly those relating to the domestic programme, and embrace them for the greater good of the sport. . However, at the request of the counties, there will be no change to the existing domestic structure until 2024.

Strauss, who captained England to victories in Australia in 2010-11 and whose Test team was the last England team to be ranked No. 1 in the world, said change was necessary for both England to return to the pinnacle of the game. Were. All formats for a sustained period, but also to protect English cricket, described as the “shifting tectonic plates” of the global game, amid the current proliferation of T20 franchise leagues.

“If we are to achieve those ambitions, the sport has to be united and we have to be open-minded to change,” Strauss said. “The most consistent message we got, from the players to the fans and the coaches, was that the status quo is not an option.”

Fifteen of the 17 recommendations can be voted on by the ECB board and implemented without resorting to counties. However, the remaining two pertain to the T20 Blast and the reorganization of the County Championship, which would require a two-thirds majority in the 18 counties’ ballots, and will almost certainly face opposition from members who face a reduction in the first. . -class fixtures, and officials who rely exclusively on revenue from home blast matches.

As proposed it is for a six-team first division, and one for a 12-team second division, split into two conferences, the winners of which will face each other in the promotion play-offs at the end of the season. The first-class season will begin in May, with matches in June, July and September on either side of a window for the Hundred in August.

To ensure a more widespread dissemination of first-class fixtures at the height of the summer, the review proposes a greater focus on Lions fixtures in that August window, as well as a series of “festival” games involving local rivals. is also. Withdraw from the county championship. The One-Day Cup, which took place in the shadow of the Hundred this season, will be shifted to April to become the season’s curtain-raiser.

“I encourage people to consider our proposals as a package, and I welcome the opportunity for an informed debate on recommended changes to men’s household structure,” Strauss said.

“There are no easy answers on the men’s home structure. The recommendations prioritize a more consistent schedule that is more manageable for the players, coaches and groundstaff who do more work, while the fans want to see and who want to see our high-end. purposeful presentation.

“This includes playing first-class cricket each month from May to September, raising the standard and intensity of the LV=Insurance County Championship, and ensuring more opportunities for the best players to play in all domestic competitions.”

A trial of the Kookaburra ball has also been proposed in place of the Duke, which has a tendency to swing and seam for a long time and therefore encourage the proliferation of medium-fast bowlers in county cricket. Combined with a greater focus on pitch preparation – a key consideration this week in the light of criticism of Glenn Chappell’s surface during Lancashire’s two-day win at Chelmsford – Strauss hopes this will help to mimic the overseas conditions and help England’s bowlers. This will help us to prepare better for future visits. ,

To that end, the report also recommends a North versus South red-ball competition played overseas in the pre-season, featuring star performers from last year’s championship, and England Under-17 fixtures against international opponents. ‘s plan.

Amid concerns that, under the new proposal, smaller counties would inevitably become feeder clubs for more successful Division One teams, the report also called for more incentive-based payouts to help counties produce winning teams. So, and therefore future England cricketers.

ECB President Richard Thompson said the board and executive unanimously supported the review’s recommendations, and urged counties to address their concerns for the greater good.

“We are particularly aware of the challenges in many counties regarding shortages in red-ball cricket,” Thompson said. “Those concerns have been taken on board and reflected in the recommendations. If there is a lack of cricketing volume for a sensible and practical program as well as seeing the best players more often, I believe.” That’s a good trade-off, especially because it would increase England’s chances of success in the future.

“It is important that going into next season that first-class counties know what they are playing in 2024.”

Andrew Miller is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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