28 May

The County Championship could return in August in a significant boost for domestic cricket. The Professional Game Group, which represents county clubs, will meet officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today to discuss the roadmap for a return for county cricket. Any restart will be dependent on government approval, but there is increasing optimism that there could be two meaningful county competitions this summer.

It was feared that there would be no county cricket this year with only the international game returning, but proposals to be discussed by the ECB and counties today would involve a regionalised County Championship starting in August followed by a similarly regionalised T20 Blast running through September and into October.

Under the plans there would be three six-team regional groups for both the County Championship and the T20 Blast ending with potential finals at Lord’s and Edgbaston respectively.

The County Championship final would be between the two teams with the most points after playing five matches, one against every other team in their group, and could take place at Lord’s at the end of September. That final may need to be played over five days because of the shorter hours of daylight in September. That would be immediately followed by a T20 Blast competition with each county playing five matches with a final at Edgbaston in early October. It is likely the final would be a standalone match rather than the usual finals day format that features two semi-finals first.

The fallback plan if the full schedule is not possible would be to scrap the championship and begin in September with the T20 Blast.

It is hoped that by September, the government may allow some spectators into grounds even if it is only around 10 to 20 per cent of capacity with social distancing measures in place.

All matches could be streamed live via YouTube, Facebook or club’s social media channels unless Sky Sports wished to broadcast any of the Blast tournament, in which case it would be its exclusively. It is understood there is a willingness among all 18 counties to try to play some cricket even though there would be financial implications given they would not be able to recoup costs from ticket sales.

Most county players are on furlough with the exception of those at Surrey and Lancashire, but if matches do resume in August they would need to be brought off that scheme and return to work at least four weeks before any games start.

John Stephenson


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