You can add to the English cricket season but you can never take away

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St Lawrence Ground, Kent (Sarah Ansell)

A brief history of what’s been wrong with the County Championship in the fairly recent past, the present, and in a couple of years’ time…

  • Not a good enough standard
  • Not a good enough standard and played at the wrong times of year
  • Not a good enough standard and played at the wrong times of year and also at the same time as another competition which will have dibs on most of the best players

The last of those seems to be on the cards going by an interview with Ashley Giles in the latest issue of The Cricketer.

Giles says that in 2021, they might not play the 50-over tournament at the same time as The Hundred. They might play some of the County Championship at the same time as The Hundred instead.

George Dobell reports that the ECB may try and acknowledge that these midsummer Championships fixtures have been diminished by halving the points available.

The temptation here is to take issue with the detail – the halving of points, the prioritisation of one competition over another – but it’s the same story as always. There is too much domestic cricket in the UK and somehow, miraculously, the addition of a fourth competition (and format) hasn’t resolved this.

We’re not purely blaming The Hundred (although plenty will). It’s not a new phenomenon. The whole, horrible, confusing huge-plate-of-food-dropped-on-the-floor mess that is the current domestic season has come about because it’s easier to introduce additional things than it is to take anything away.

In 1890, it was suggested that county cricket be divided into first, second and third classes with eight teams in each.

We think this is a good idea even now as it would blur the divide between the professional and amateur games, but of course no-one wanted to risk losing first-class status so it didn’t happen.

Despite many, many, many changes, nothing really changes. Imagine trying to reclassify counties as second-class in a world where people still can’t come to terms with two divisions of first-class cricket and the crazy notion that the second division is somehow inferior.

It’s just not fair, they say, trying to impose a hierarchy in sport – and this is how you end up with ten teams in the top division playing 14 games next season.

Maybe they could play nine games? No, no. You need to be playing plenty of first-class cricket because first-class cricket is the main thing. Everyone knows that.

At the same time, 50-over cricket is important in the lead-up to a World Cup, so that’s why it may get priority over the Championship from 2021. The T20 Blast is important for the counties because it gets people into the grounds, so it gets priority too.

Because of all of these competing priorities and the fact that each of them has to somehow involve all 18 first-class counties, they came up with the idea of a new, simpler tournament, with fewer teams.

The Hundred was envisaged as a simple, straightforward competition that ran from one date to another with no changes of format and every player you’ve heard of somehow involved in it.

It’s a noble and logical goal. And then you have to crowbar it into the county season without diminishing anything else.

Something has to give, but nothing ever, ever does.

Let the compromises begin!


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  1. I think the Blast will be the thing that goes, paid for by sharing the Hundred Millions (see what I did there?) out amongst the counties to subsidise them. The financial benefit to counties will diminish anyway for teams who are competing with the Hundred for T20ish bums on seats, I’d imagine.

    I can’t see a domestic 50 over competition lasting very long unless England continue to be successful internationally to the same extent they were over the last few years, which seems unlikely.

    1. We like the FA Cup style knockout idea for 50-over. Would love to see Winnington Park v Surrey in the third round.

      1. There was an element of that in the old C&G Trophy, wasn’t there – I can’t remember any ‘giant killings’, presumably there must have been some.

      2. Seem to remember a Combined Universities side featuring the young Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussein reaching the quarter finals of the 50 over trophy many years ago.

        The more I think about it though, the more bizarre it is that cricketers play in so many formats. You wouldn’t see Owen Farrell playing rugby 7s or Messi playing beach football.

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