The ECB has confirmed that no professional domestic cricket will be played in England or Wales until at least August 1.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo on Wednesday, the ECB has confirmed that it will look at options for holding domestic red- and white-ball competitions, possibly from early August. These options, subject to government guidelines on the Covid-19 pandemic, will be presented to the ECB Board by the Professional Game Group working group in June.
Plans include a Championship split into North, South and West regional groups and culminating in a five-day Lord’s final, as well as a Vitality T20 Blast season with a Finals Day at Edgbaston while the the Royal London One-Day Cup looks almost certain to be abandoned.
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Recreational cricket remains suspended until further notice, with the exception of using outdoor cricket nets and pitches for exercise under the govenrment’s social distancing guidelines. The ambition to stage a domestic season includes both men’s and women’s fixtures.
Tom Harrison, the ECB Chief Executive Officer, remained hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket played this season.
“Whilst traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field,” Harrison said. “That can only happen though when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in the game is our key priority.
“We have learned a lot and continue to learn about the safety protocols that would need to be in place to stage international cricket behind closed doors in this environment and those protocols will also need to apply to the domestic game.
“Across the recreational game it has been heart-warming to hear of clubs where players have returned to the nets. As children start returning to school in the coming weeks, we look forward to exploring how those guidelines and learnings can be deployed for cricket. This can then see the recreational game continue its phased return as soon as we have Government approval.”
Lessons would also be taken from the return of England’s men’s squads to training and any international matches played behind closed doors this summer and applied to re-starting the domestic game.
A group of 18 bowlers returned to individual training programmes at venues around the country last week, with batsmen due to commence training on June 1.
The ECB is poised to name an extended group of up to 45 players, including red- and white-ball squads, to train through June with a view to playing three Tests against West Indies from July 8 followed by a three-Test series against Pakistan behind closed doors in a so-called bio-secure environment. Limited-overs fixtures against Pakistan and Australia are also scheduled.
The ECB will seek discussions with the UK Government to map out a return to recreational cricket, including the potential for an earlier return of junior cricket. Schools in England are expected to reopen to certain year levels from Monday.
The English professional domestic cricket season was scheduled to begin on March 24 with the traditional Champion County match between holders Essex and MCC in Galle, Sri Lanka. The men’s County Championship was due to start on April 12 with a total of 10 rounds scheduled up to August 1.
The Vitality Blast was due to start on Thursday with all group-stage matches originally planned to be played before the end of July.
If the domestic season is unable to begin until September, plans for a Championship season will be dropped and all efforts will instead focus on The Blast. In the best-case scenario, each county will play four first-class games in August before breaking for the Blast season.