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Ashes 2021/22

Jonathan Agnew calls for County Championship to be axed in the wake of England’s Ashes humiliation

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Former England cricketer and current Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew is the latest figure in the English game to hit out at the existing first-class structure in the country following England’s 4-0 drubbing in the Ashes.

Days after Test skipper Joe Root criticised the first-class system in the country for not adequately preparing its players for Test cricket, Agnew has suggested radical changes to the existing structure, proposing cutting down the number of teams to ten from the existing 18, with players being picked through a draft.

Writing in his column for BBC, Agnew wrote: “I am proposing that we take the eight teams from The Hundred, add two more, and create a new first-class competition that replaces the County Championship. It would not involve the same players as The Hundred, but you could have the same system of a draft. In one move it ensures that the best are playing against the best, it cuts down on the number of games and it is easier to thread first-class cricket throughout the summer.”

“It would be lovely if the counties could come up with their own solution, but with 18 of them there are always going to be issues around the number of games and the right format for the competition.”

He also added that the first-class competition in the country had to be streamlined or else “England will not have any Test cricketers.”

He said: “The counties would still play in the Blast and the 50-over format, and have their own red-ball tournament, possibly with three-day matches, that produces a conveyor belt for the premier first-class competition. This suggestion might cause anger among county members, but these supporters are usually lovers of first-class and Test cricket. Do they really want to see England lose Test matches, getting thrashed when they go to places like Australia and India?”

“We must wake up to the fact that if our first-class game is not fit for purpose, then England will not have any Test cricketers. I know what I am suggesting is radical, but the time has come to streamline the elite level of first-class cricket in the UK.”

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