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County Championship 2022

Michael Vaughan proposes ‘radical’ 10-team five-day top-tier overhaul of County Championship

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Michael Vaughan has suggested a change to the County Championship format, advocating a change to five-day matches in a bid to produce more Test-ready players.

The woes of the England Test team continue after Joe Root stepped down as the skipper last week. The side, who are yet to win a series in their last five attempts, recently returned from Australia and West Indies without registering a single win.

With plenty of scrutiny on the existing county system, Vaughan has advocated a format that could improve the quality of cricket on display.


Last year’s County Championship structure had six teams divided into three groups, with each side playing ten games. The top two sides from each group advanced into Division One for the second phase, with the other teams advancing to either Division Two or Three. The side that ended on top of Division One was announced the winner of the County Championship. This year, the ECB returned to a two-division system, with ten sides in Division One, and eight in Division Two. All games are four-day matches.

Writing in The Telegraph, Vaughan pushed for a structure where the top ten teams, in Division One, play the other teams once in games that would last five days. It would ensure a maximum of 11 matches per season for a team, which would not only reduce the amount of cricket being played but also, theoretically, increase the competition among the best teams.

“County cricket is a great tool. To have 18 teams is something we can use to our advantage and use to maximise reach. We have 18 centres of excellence in this country. The problem is always about quality not quantity of cricket. Here is a radical thought for Rob [Key]. Why not have a top division of 10 teams all playing five-day cricket to mirror Test cricket?

“They play each other once, so nine games a season and, if necessary, a round-robin semi-final and final at Lord’s. The two teams that reach the final would then play a maximum 11 games a summer. It significantly reduces the amount of cricket played by most teams and allows for best v best more often than not by concentrating talent in the top tier.

“With two overseas players per team that leaves 90 places for English cricketers all playing five-day cricket on good pitches. The standard would be good. Cricketers would be playing the same format as England players are picked for, which is five-day cricket. We would be producing players used to playing on better wickets which means bowlers would have to bowl quicker, spinners turn the ball more and batsmen would have to know how to bat for seven to eight hours.”

He also suggested changing the schedule of the County Championship, with the tournament being held around the summer when a Test series is on, which would ensure that the players are better prepared for international cricket should they earn selection. The other eight teams could play three or four-day cricket, which would allow less experienced players to prepare,” wrote Vaughan.

“Play these nine rounds at the most prominent time in the summer. You could have the three-week window for the Hundred but play the five-day Championship games around the Test series. That way county cricketers are mirroring Test cricket when the Tests are on so should, in theory, be better prepared. We have six or seven Tests every summer so why not play the nine five-day games around that period rather than cramming them into April and September?

“The other eight teams could play three or four-day cricket, which would be the next step up for the juniors coming through. That is where I would be going. Be radical, otherwise why bother wasting your time with reviews, panels, and endless meetings?

“Let’s spread the wings and produce a system that rewards the style of cricketer we need at Test level. At the moment, our game produces too many players who will never represent the national team.”

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