The 2020 County Fixtures – A Dog’s Breakfast

So then my pedigree chums. It’s time to digest the 2020 county fixtures which the ECB announced with a whisper yesterday. As we predicted it’s a complete dog’s breakfast. In fact, it’s a particularly unappetising dog’s breakfast with bone marrow and entrails overflowing Fido’s bowl and slopping all over the floor.

Let’s make no bones about it. This is an appalling schedule. County cricket fans will be restricted to a diet of Vitality Blast and diminished Royal London Cup games (played between sides missing up to two thirds of their best players) throughout the ‘summer’ – by which I mean all of June, all of July, and the vast majority of August.

If you were hoping to see plenty of quality first class cricket during the 12 best weeks of weather then you’ll be sorely disappointed – albeit not in the least bit surprised.

Although clubs will play up to three championship fixtures too during what might reasonably be defined as ‘the English summer’ – here are the 2020 county fixtures for my team Worcs – these will be interspersed randomly between T20 games; therefore the players will be in neither the right form nor headspace to perform at their best.

As Sam Billings said a couple of month’s ago, it’s simply impossible for professional cricketers to play T20 games every other day for weeks, suddenly play an isolated red ball game, and then return to T20 again. He described the strategy as ‘completely brainless’. And it’s hard to disagree.

So how does the summer shape up on a month by month basis? You can see a more detailed breakdown on the ECB website but I’ve put together a rough summary of the 2020 county fixtures below. Some of the games overlap (i.e. start at the end of one month and overlap into another) but this is basically what we’re looking at:

April – 3 championship games

May – 4 championship games

June – Vitality Blast

July – The Hundred (plus diminished RLODC)

August – The Hundred (plus diminished RLODC and one championship fixture at the very end of the month)

September – 4 championship fixtures

As everyone can see, first class cricket has been totally sold down the river. Although it’s nice that some championship games will be played over weekends, the ECB has reserved the longest days, the warmest weather, and therefore the best pitches, for white ball cricket.

This in itself is not entirely new. But the appearance of Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit, which has parked its copious derriere right in the middle of July and August, has made things so much worse. Fido’s bowl was already overflowing … and then the ECB added a toxic log into the mix.

Even if we include the 3 championship fixtures dotted randomly amongst the Blast games, there will be no first class cricket played in our country between July 9th and August 23rd (the last of the random red ball games starts on July 5th). So no red Dukes ball will make an appearance at a professional county game at any venue for a period of 45 days, or six and a half weeks, when the UK weather suits red ball cricket best.

Basically this is terrible news for everyone who cares about the England test team. Ashley Giles says he wants to refocus on first class cricket now that the World Cup has been won – but how? The only way to do this would be to abandon the Hundred or play it in April / May instead. And that’s about as likely to happen as Harrison and Graves volunteering to take a big pay cut.

I should mention that the 2020 county fixtures also pretty bad in some ways for fans of white ball cricket too. Why? Because neither the Vitality Blast nor the RLODC schedule makes any sense either. In fact, it will be quite difficult for these tournaments to develop a narrative or momentum of their own.

Take the Blast for example. There will be 14 groups games between the 28th May and 12th July. Fair enough one might think. But then the quarter-finals don’t occur until 18th August! And then finals days is scheduled to take place more than 2 weeks later on 5th September.

The RLODC will also struggle to capture the imagination. The groups games come thick and fast in July-August, as do the quarter finals and semi finals, but the final takes place on 19th September, more than a month after the finalists will be known. This is utterly ridiculous.

However, you’ll be pleased to know that there is one competition where the schedule makes sense – where the group games take place systematically and build towards a showcase final played at a sensible time.

And what’s that competition? You guessed it. It’s The Hundred! So the one form of the game that’s the ECB’s priority is the one form of the game that the England team doesn’t actually play.

You really couldn’t make this stuff up. Apparently everything can go hang other than the ECB’s needless vanity project. It’s quite disgraceful.

James Morgan

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  • So seven of the 14 rounds of the County championship in April and September when there will likely be lots of cloud cover, and in April at least no chance of preparing a pitch the surface of which is other than emerald coloured. I make that 50% of the entire championship programme happening in conditions which favour medium paced nibblers more than any other type of cricketer. It will also of course mean that we once again have a situation where there will no 1st team red ball cricket other than the test matches and therefore no one outside the test ranks with current red ball form at that time. I expected the fixture scheduling to be dire but this has managed to limbo below even my expectations.

  • The Hundred – a unwanted disaster. Plough the money into the Blast and let’s have our red ball game back. You only need to look at the garbage england are playing in new zealand to see the effects.

  • Attendance at the Hundred is likely to be high, at least initially, through a combination of unrelenting ECB hype in the media, curiosity and good weather, which will allow early claims of success. A few cut-price promotions must be on the cards as well – the ECB will leave no stone unturned in its determination to destroy “proper” cricket.

    Re. England in New Zealand, I fear Andrew’s comparison is unfair to garbage.

  • The only thing that’s actually ok with this list is that there is more weekend championship cricket with at least 4 games in May starting on a Friday. At least for those working they can see a bit more cricket. Apart from that it looks like something compiled by monkeys, actually they’d do a better job. What about Giles imbecilic statement of prioritising red ball cricket? Just bull shit. You can see how this fetish with crap white ball cricket is seriously affecting the Test side. Well we can, but the idiot ECB can’t.

    • I don’t understand why Middlesex v Worcester should start on Sunday rather Friday or Saturday thereby providing two days of weekend cricket, and making it (cheaper and) more convenient especially for Worcester supporters wanting a day out at Lord’s.

    • Haven’t even looked at the schedule yet. Won’t be disappointed though as my expectations had already gone from zero to minus for this year.

  • My old dog is suffering from dementia and has become somewhat careless as to where he poos (inside and out).
    At least he has an excuse which is more than can be said for the eejits who put together this pile of snow white.

  • The only plus for the county games is there are some Sunday starts.
    The most depressing thing about it was the interview with Strauss, the supposed saviour of the red ball game, having been the only one to acknowledge how it had been deliberately neglected to persue the World Cup and the only one to promise redress. Now he’s all over this chaos like a rash, pronouncing it the most exciting summer of cricket he’s can remember. He and Giles are certainly showing their true colours now.
    Even the players are saying they need better pitches to play on. How can those be prepared when they are either wet or worn at the beginning and end of the season. It seems a no brainer yet the ECB are in denial.
    With the media creaming themselves over the 7 tournaments we now have there is no one to put on the restraints necessary for any thought to go into the long term future of the game.

    • “any thought to go into the long term future of the game.”

      Oh, they’re thinking about it all right – they’re just not coming to the conclusions that most of us around here want.

      The most important cricket quote this decade was Ian Chappell’s one about how many administrators he talked to who thought the game could survive on T20 alone. All he got wrong is that many find T20 too long

      • I don’t think there’s any long term thinking going on atall. There’s no plan to any of this, just a succession of ‘new’ ideas to extend the game’s influence. No thought has gone into the implications of balancing the various formats, so we have a ‘fair distribution of wealth’ so to speak.
        I didn’t know about the Chappell quote, that’s pretty disturbing. Cricket seems to be becoming like fascist state with the ‘we know what’s best for you’ syndrome pronounced by the unelected marketing generals who are dedicated to establishing a new status quo that puts them in total charge.
        It’s a bit like Trump, who is beholden to no one and can do pretty much what he likes by dismissing all criticism as ‘fake news’. Nothing seems to stick to him however many allegations of improper conduct are made. Maybe the ECB’s next step will be to appoint Nigel Farage & Alan Sugar as executives, with Baroness Brady to give the whole thing a sporting slant.

  • The thing I don’t understand about the new 100 ball nonsense is that they have scheduled it during July and August in order to attract families with children who will be on their school holidays yet half the games are being played Friday evenings or weekends when those same children wouldn’t be at school anyway. In fact none of the 32 (I think its 32) games are scheduled for when any child would be in school so there is no reason why it couldn’t have been played in June and leave July and August for 4 day cricket when children would be off all day and could watch some county cricket for 4 days.
    There will be a maximum of 800 balls bowled at Old Trafford in a 5 week period – what an absolute waste of the nicest part of the summer – those cricketers involved certainly wont be overworked either with players playing less than a test match over a 5 week period
    I’m not too sure about weekend starts for 4 day cricket in April and May either when the football season is still in full swing

    • JC, it isn’t merely that families with children would be just as available on Friday evenings and weekends in June as they are in August: they’d actually be _more_ available! School term-time means that they’re going to be largely at home.

      Whereas in August, many families are likely to be away on holiday for some of the time.

      • But the other thing with families in the summer hols is the half of them or more will be away on holiday. And I still don’t see Mum and the kids racing down to the Oval on a Friday night to join the drinkers. It’s fantasy land.

  • I think they should persuade Andrew Neil to interview Strauss and Giles and give them a proper skewering and grilling about how we produce Test players with such a carp scheduling. Watch them skirm!!

    • The problem with the media in general is that everything is short term. As the saying goes, today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper. To them there is no mileage in cricket selectors long term future. What we need is a high profile documentary on the state of the game where decisions and their consequences can be properly analysed. It is the only way the ECB’s short term hypocrisy can be properly exposed, especially the business of The Hundred attracting women and children in a way the 20-20 can’t. You would certainly need a hard nosed confrontational journalist to front it, not an ex-player. Just use them as interview fodder.
      The main prblem is TV companies want white ball, where they can show an entire game and get a positive result at the end. A days county championship is no good to them. As the man says, money talks.

  • argh! Isn’t it possible to storm the gates at ECB HQ and put someone else in charge? Anyone that watches The hundred, have a word with yourself

  • Another worry is that this format will last for a year and then we’ll be told, ‘It’s too congested.’ Guess which form of the game will be cut? I very much fear that the four day fixtures could be reduced yet again. ‘Coaches of 100 teams need more time to coach their players!’ Will this nightmare ever end?


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