England’s Test series with West Indies and the T20 Blast have been postponed after the ECB announced a further delay to the start of the professional cricket season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the announcement last month that no professional cricket would be played in England and Wales till at least May 28, the delay has now been extended, with no action until at least July 1. England’s three-Test series with West Indies, which was set to begin on June 5 at The Oval, will now look to be scheduled from July until the end of September.
The ECB is also still aiming to limit damage to the T20 Blast, which was initially set to begin on May 28. They will look to stage all of the competition’s June matches at a later point in the season. England Women’s limited-overs series against India have also been pushed back to later in the season.
A board meeting is to be held next Wednesday to further discuss what the delay holds for the inaugural edition of The Hundred. While last month the ECB stated that it would prioritise international cricket, the T20 Blast and The Hundred in its scheduling this year to boost the game’s finances, it is no longer focusing on the latter as it seeks to protect the future of the 18 first-class counties.
The County Championship will now lose nine rounds of fixtures, but the ECB has not given up on the prospect of domestic red-ball cricket, stating that “blocks for red-ball cricket and white-ball cricket will be held in a revised schedule”.
“Our role as a national governing body during a crisis of this scale requires us to carefully plan alongside cricket’s stakeholders and supporters to attempt to overcome Covid-19’s impact on this season,” said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison. “As much as we remain hopeful that we can deliver some cricket this summer, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and our priority – over and above the playing of professional sport – will be to protect the vulnerable, key workers and society as a whole over.
“That’s why, simply put, there will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play. Our schedule will only go ahead if Government guidance permits. Our biggest challenge, along with other sports, is how we could seek to implement a bio-secure solution that offers optimum safety and security for all concerned. The guidance we receive from Westminster will help us shape how we deliver this.
“Our plan is to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the season to give the best chance of play. The Vitality Blast will also now occupy the latest possible season slot to offer as much time as possible to play a county short-form competition.”