Rule changes as trun­cated sea­son fi­nally gets go­ing

Short­est first-class sched­ule since 1870s will be­gin on Aug 1 Coun­ties di­vided into three groups to re­duce trav­el­ling

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Scyld Berry

It will be the thinnest first-class sea­son since the 1870s – five first-class matches per county – but af­ter four months with­out any games at all, the county sea­son will fi­nally be­gin on Aug 1 in a com­pe­ti­tion for the Bob Wil­lis Tro­phy.

Wil­lis, the for­mer Eng­land cap­tain who died in early De­cem­ber

‘Player fit­ness and well-be­ing is the top pri­or­ity af­ter a long lay-off’

last year, was never the great­est fan of county cricket as it used up en­er­gies which, as a fast bowler, he would have pre­ferred to ded­i­cate to Eng­land’s cause, so maybe the nam­ing of this ab­bre­vi­ated com­pe­ti­tion is par­tic­u­larly ap­pro­pri­ate.

There was never a chance of stag­ing the nor­mal cham­pi­onship in the lim­ited time avail­able – lit­tle more than a month be­cause a Twenty20 com­pe­ti­tion has also to be fit­ted in be­fore the end of this quasi-sea­son. Each county will play one four-day game per week into the first week of Septem­ber.

The 18 first-class coun­ties have been di­vided into three re­gional groups to min­imise trav­el­ling and ob­vi­ate the need for ho­tels and nights away from home. The two group win­ners with the most points will meet in a five-day fi­nal.

The points for a draw will in­crease from five points to eight, oth­er­wise the scor­ing sys­tem will be the same as for the cham­pi­onship.

Other changes will in­clude a re­duc­tion of the min­i­mum num­ber of overs from 96 to 90, which will re­duce the stress on pace bowlers who have had no pre-sea­son prac­tice. An al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion would have been to make all teams play two spin­ners.

No county will be able to bat longer than 120 overs in their first in­nings, which will again pro­vide a limit on the amount of work that pace bowlers have to en­dure; and the sec­ond new ball will be avail­able af­ter 90 not 80 overs.

The tro­phy will fea­ture a por­trait of Wil­lis that his wife, Lau­ren, painted.

Sir An­drew Strauss, chair of the per­for­mance cricket com­mit­tee, said: “For all fans of the county game, it is fan­tas­tic news that do­mes­tic cricket will get un­der way at the start of Au­gust.

“It goes with­out say­ing that ev­ery­one wants to see com­pet­i­tive red and white-ball cricket but in th­ese un­prece­dented times it is cru­cially im­por­tant that we recog­nise that the fit­ness and well-be­ing of play­ers is the top pri­or­ity af­ter a long lay-off pe­riod.”

As one of the unforeseen con­se­quences of Covid, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if this new com­pe­ti­tion an­tic­i­pates a fu­ture in which the two di­vi­sions are abol­ished and the 18 coun­ties play each other an­nu­ally in three con­fer­ences, but home and away in fu­ture, mak­ing 10 games each, plus a fi­nal.

Warm­ing up: Northamp­ton­shire pre­pare at the County Ground yes­ter­day (left) while play­ers stop to sani­tise (above)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.