England and Joe Root were warned there is “no panacea” to remedy the various complaints about first-class cricket that have arisen after a dismal Ashes campaign.
An uneasy spotlight has shone on the LV=Insurance County Championship after a 4-0 thrashing Down Under with Test captain Root and England and Wales chief executive Tom Harrison calling for a red ball “reset”.
There will be five rounds of championship matches in June and July, as opposed to just three last year, as the league returns to its normal two-division structure after a few revamped seasons due to the pandemic.
But the season kicks off on April 7, with four consecutive weeks of red ball matches, and ends on September 26 – with no championship matches in August, when the second edition of The Hundred takes precedence.
Neil Snowball, the ECB’s director of county cricket, admitted the schedule is far from ideal for balancing formats, but significant changes will have to wait until at least next year.
“The match schedule is a step up from last year, but don’t expect this schedule to be all we need to tackle some of the challenges of red ball cricket,” Snowball said.
“We know there’s no magic bullet, there’s been a lot of talk about all the different things that we need to consider – whether it’s what kind of ball we use, what kind of pitches we play on, the format of the competitions, etc.
“It needs a comprehensive assessment. I think there’s a feeling that we don’t have the right balance (between the formats) right now and that’s what we need to look at.
“We need to get the premier provinces, the ECB, the PCA (Professional Cricketers’ Association) and the other stakeholders together and then hopefully work out a plan this year so that we can make some changes from 2023 onwards. absolute commitment to do that.”
Yorkshire’s placement in Division One has led to the suggestion that relegation is not part of their punishment for bungling Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations, although Snowball was unable to shed much new light on the matter.
He rejected suggestions that the delay in announcing this season’s games was due to a wait for any sanctions that could be imposed on Yorkshire following an ECB investigation, which is still ongoing.
But Snowball said: “I can confirm the fixtures are as published. Yorkshire is in Division One and everyone should work on that basis, that Yorkshire are in Division One and plan accordingly.
“If something changes, everyone will communicate it in due course.”
A first-class County Select XI has been created to take on New Zealand and South Africa, the main opponents of the Test this summer, in one-off matches with the idea of giving English or fringe players some meaningful time in the middle after little preparation before we face India at last year’s home event.
There are no plans to host the successful Champion County game this year, while the Bob Willis Trophy in its current guise has been scrapped – although the ECB is keen to honor the late fast bowler with a match this season and talks with his family are on hold continuing.
The Vitality Blast will be played over a seven-week period, beginning on May 25 and ending with Finals Day in Edgbaston on July 16, the earliest closing of the competition entering its 20th year.
In addition, the tournament will feature 10 double-headers alongside the women’s Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 matches, which will be played consecutively at the same venue, following on from a successful formula by The Hundred last year.
The Royal London One-Day Cup will again take place simultaneously with The Hundred, but the final on September 17 will return to a Saturday, controversially held on Thursday last year, while the Rachael Heyhoe Trophy’s showpiece will be the Flint Trophy on September 25. first held at Lord’s.