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Smaller County Championship top tier, 50-over competition in April: Andrew Strauss outlines ECB vision for English cricket

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

In a blog published on the ECB website, Andrew Strauss has outlined that the ECBs high performance review is moving into its consultation phase, with the findings of their research now shared with all 18 counties.

A smaller top tier of the County Championship and playing the One-Day Cup in April are two of the proposed ideas, with the document setting out a comprehensive review of and vision for the domestic game in England and Wales.

“Our aim is simple – to have a high-performance system for English men’s cricket which enables our men’s teams to have sustained success across all formats, while having a thriving, future-proofed domestic game,” writes Strauss.


In order for the counties to have time to discuss the proposals, the 2023 County Championship will remain at 14 games a season with the research also stating that, “this review has not looked at, and will not seek to change, the number of first-class counties”.

Attached to Strauss’s blog is a document that was shared with counties last night which outline the findings, draft ideas and proposals of the review.

Below are five of the key proposals from the analysis.

Smaller County Championship top tier

The ECB’s analysis showed that English players “struggle more than players from other countries to transition from domestic to international cricket”, while also demonstrating that they play more first-class games and more days of cricket than all other countries.

A smaller top division is an aim designed to help facilitate higher standards and provide more “intense best v best red-ball cricket.”

Further ideas to help bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket include a North vs South red ball match in the UAE during pre-season and to formalise a consistent schedule for the Lions.

Fewer days of domestic cricket in total

Strauss’s blog makes mention that “feedback from players is that reduction in the amount of men’s domestic cricket played is essential”.

Currently, there are 79 days of domestic cricket scheduled in the summer, excluding The Hundred. The proposal aims to find a way to reduce that number in order to “aid player performance”.

One-day Cup in April

A revamped 50-over competition is in the pipeline with one of the analysis’ “emerging ideas” being a “strongest possible” one-day competition in April, with a smaller group stage and emphasis placed on knockout cricket.

Potential red-ball competition in August

An extension of the idea that if a white-ball competition moves to April is that a red-ball competition could then be played alongside The Hundred in August.

The analysis asks, “is this preferable [for a red-ball competition] to be played alongside the Hundred? If so, should a form of red-ball cricket played in August?” The analysis also points out that most of the country’s best red-ball players don’t play in The Hundred.

Trial use of different balls

In an attempt to aid bowlers develop different skills that will allow them to succeed overseas, the research proposes that the domestic game “trial use of different balls.”

This may see the use of other brands such as Kookaburra or SG in the county game.

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