Duffle Coats At The Ready: The 2020 Championship Fixtures

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.

James Morgan

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    • Oh, I’m sure we can do more complex rain dances than that. Magically rains over every Test match ground but leaves perfect cricket weather in, say, Scarborough, Chelmsford, Worcester, Colwyn Bay, Derby, Hove etc. that kind if thing.

      A targeted audience, as Sanjay P would say…..

  • Lets hope for a mild spring and autumn.
    I refuse to watch the hundred live or on tv and will take in 50 over, minor counties and club games when I can.
    One day cricket is killing OUR great game!

  • The ECB is just a money making operation. Ashley Giles was never that good a cricketer. How about Mike Gatting, Ian Botham or David Gower in charge of English cricket? At least then we would have somebody who knows what it means to play red ball cricket at the highest level.

    • Yeah pick Gatting and a bunch of other rebel tourists. After all, since Giles Clarke, who was known for hanging out with rather dubious politicians, the ECB has been a bit lacklustre in that respect. I am sure that Gatting would improve the ECB on that score again.

  • Well at least I have about 10 weeks to do the allotment and garden between June and August much like this year. A few 50 over games at Guildford while the Oval “Invincibles” will be slogging. What an insulting name that is to the real greats of the game.
    Whatever Giles says the ECB have little interest in red ball cricket, or indeed 50 over cricket.

    • I don’t know whether Giles himself believes what he’s saying but it’s obvious the ECB as a whole says it so they can keep charging top whack for a few more years (and in an effort to reassure some of the more gullible).

  • Why are these ex England so called players trying to ruin our great game, ure destroying everything we’ve built up, What for 15 minutes of fame & a few dollars more, well I among many will not be there…..IDIOTS

  • As you say James, we all knew it was going to happen next season and if you are promoting a new tournament it makes perfect sense to stage it at the height if the season, when general interest is at its peak.
    I know you are despairing of the plight of the red ball game, but like Brexit, there’s just so many times you can regurgitate the arguments before they become tedious, as no one really knows anything yet.
    As I’ve said numerous times before let’s see how the public and players react before we condemn what essentially is designed as groundswell public entertainment, not some esoteric pursuit, which has been cricket’s problem for some time, that it’s seen as an elitist game for the middle and upper classes.

  • The issue is not accommodating four tournaments within an English cricket season per se. We managed that very successfully for several decades from 1970 to about 2000: a full county championship programme; a 60-over cup competition; a 55-over cup competition and a 40-over league played on Sundays. What’s more, the season did not start before the third week of April, nor finish after the second week of September. No, the problem is the proliferation of lucrative short-form cricket competitions in other parts of the world, which mean that most of the best cricketers are otherwise engaged for all but a short window of the English summer. We have compounded the problem by taking an “if you can’t beat ’em, join em” approach, which will lead to the window of availability being shorter still.

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