We knew it was coming but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. The county championship fixtures for 2020 will be released shortly and, according to the Daily Mail, the season is due to finish ‘just hours shy’ of October. Get your warm coats, hip flasks, and thermal underwear ready folks.
The big loser in all this, of course, is the county championship and supporters of red ball cricket. With Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit scheduled to run from 17th July (the day after England’s ODI series against Australia finishes) to August 16th, the county championship fixtures have been pushed to the fringes of the season like never before. So much for Ashley Giles’s post-Ashes pledge to prioritise first class cricket after the World Cup.
According to The Mail’s Richard Gibson, seven rounds of championship fixtures will be played between April 13th to May 25th. Great news for Darren Stevens and Co, but not so great for the England test team. First class cricket will then return for a further four rounds from the 7th to the 30th of September. The last day of the season, which could decide the destiny of the championship, will be September 30th. Let’s hope the counties invest in plenty of leaf blowers.
But there is some good news folks. That April 13th start is actually an improvement from 2019 when the season started a week earlier. Maybe this shows that there is some goodwill towards first class cricket at ECB towers level after all? Nope. Apparently the season is starting a week later to give our white ball players more opportunity to play in the IPL. Oh goodie!
Although these fixtures have yet to be confirmed, and the dates might shift ever so slightly when they’re rubber-stamped (albeit by just a day or two), there’s no doubt that the domestic cricket calendar is an absolute cluster***k at this point. It was bad enough before The Hundred came along. Now it’s a complete joke.
What’s more, it should escape precisely nobody’s attention that domestic 50-over cricket has now be relegated to a development tournament. With The Hundred occupying approximately 95 of the best English and Kolpak players (plus many of the best overseas players) what was once the Royal London One Day Cup will now become a complete afterthought – and obviously no preparation for ODI cricket whatsoever.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. For the last four years the ECB made England’s 50 over team its absolutely priority. Yet now, because of The Hundred, 50-over cricket means precisely nothing. What sort of a governing body acts like that? It’s akin to the RFU responding to England’s victory over the All Blacks at the weekend by abandoning 15-a-side rugby and focusing on sevens. The mind boggles.
What really sticks in the craw, however, was Colin Graves insistence at the Department Of Culture Media and Sport Committee last week that the counties would be the ones responsible for drawing up the 2020 fixture list. Basically he knew the county championship fixtures were going to look really bad so he tried to palm off responsibility in the most disingenuous manner imaginable.
I’d like to ask you, Mr Graves, what else the counties could have done now that you’ve parked a genetically modified elephant slap bang in the middle of the best part of summer? Shoehorning four formats into the schedule was always going to be nigh on impossible without screwing over the county championship fixtures.
But then I guess you’d simply argue – just like you did at the DCMS committee – that the counties voted for the Hundred so that’s their fault too. I guess we’re just supposed to ignore that fact that the counties are completely dependent on ECB subsidies for their existence, and many were either ‘bribed’ or felt they had no choice but to support your completely unnecessary and reckless vanity project.
Isn’t it funny how a competition ostensibly created to make cricket simpler has actually made everything so complicated? When England lose the next Ashes down under 0-4 or 0-5 we’ll know exactly who to blame.
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