Strauss Plan for ricket

Neil Whitaker reports

The new look County Championship proposed by Sir Andrew Strauss will include a six-team Premier Division with two feeder leagues of six underneath competing for a promotional play-off, it can be revealed, but reluctant chairmen are fighting against the plans.

All counties will play at least 10 four-day matches as part of the proposals from Strauss’ high performance review in what would be one of the biggest shake-ups of the English county system in its history.

Teams will play each other home and away with the potential for play-offs to decide the champions in the Premier Division. The winners of the two conferences will play off to decide which of them is promoted to the top flight, with one up, one down proposed.

The 50-over competition will be played in April, the Blast from May onwards, the Hundred in August and the championship mainly in June, July and September, the prime months of the summer instead of being played in early April and the end of September as it is now.

There is also a proposal to play three slots of four-day cricket in August, like festival weeks, that sit outside the championship so counties could still play 14 red-ball games (if they reach the play-off). These will take place during the Hundred, giving Test players some red-ball cricket if needed, as well as those without Hundred contracts. It would also provide members with more four-day cricket with the possibility of inviting teams such as Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Scotland to take part and raise the standard in those countries too.

Strauss is fighting to persuade reluctant counties to accept the idea which needs 12 votes in favour for the change to go through. A ballot of the counties is pencilled in for Sept 20 and intense lobbying is ongoing.

Strauss and members of the high performance review have spent the past couple of weeks meeting counties to outline a vision for domestic cricket from 2024 onwards.

It is understood there is reluctance from some county chairmen to agree to a reduction in four-day championship cricket which is popular with members. The members own 15 of the 18 counties. 

Strauss will present the findings of his discussions with the counties to the ECB board on Wednesday, which will be chaired for the first time by Richard Thompson at the start of his five-year term as the board’s new chairman.

Data released recently by the ECB shows English players play 79 days of domestic cricket, which is more than any other country and leaves them with less time to prepare and rest when compared with other nations. It also leaves less time to prepare good pitches which in turn makes the step up to Test level harder. 

The ECB’s data discovered that averages for English batsmen drop off significantly in Test cricket compared with county cricket whereas for India, Australia and South Africa there is little difference in comparison. Averages for seamers are also much higher in Test cricket compared with county cricket because they are used to helpful pitches in the championship.

The high performance review was launched after the Ashes defeat and years of underachievement by England’s Test team.
September 7, 2022 11:19 pm

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