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County Cricket

Ben Stokes comes out against ECB plan to reduce County Championship fixtures

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Ben Stokes has come out against the idea of cutting the number of County Championship fixtures played per season.

The England Test captain’s intervention is an important one, given that Rob Key, the ECB’s managing director of England men’s cricket, has stated that his preference would be for the competition to decrease from 14 to 10 games per team.

Stokes responded positively to an article in The Cricketer reporting that 97 percent of respondents to a survey, circulated by the Lancashire Action Group, would not accept any reduction in the number of County Championship fixtures played per year. He quote-tweeted the piece, adding the caption “Ab so bloody lutely” followed by two ‘clap’ emojis.

The possibility of reducing the number of County Championship games per season has gained increasing traction in recent months, with Andrew Strauss overseeing a high-performance review into the structure of the English game. There have been reports that the ECB is set to recommend a shift to a 12-team top tier, with each team playing each other once, meaning 11 games per side, and it is this structure that Key has come out in favour of.

“I would have 10 games of Championship cricket,” Key told the Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Club podcast in May. “I think you’ve basically added in a month of the season with a competition so you’ve added in a month’s worth of cricket, so you’ve got to lose a month’s worth of cricket. So you have 14 games, you go down to 10 games and you end up with 10 high-quality games.

“I have my thing where you have your 12 best teams and one [division] below it and all that type of stuff, but whether that’s how it’s gonna go, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think that would be a bad plan.”

Stokes’ statement comes at an opportune moment, with the ECB reportedly sharing their proposed restructure at a meeting of the county chief executives today (Wednesday, August 3). Any changes would need to be voted through with a two-thirds majority, or by 12 votes to six.

It has been reported that a reduction to 12 games is what the ECB have settled on, something that the counties are likely to accept.

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