The ECB has extended the delay to the start of the 2020 county season, with no professional domestic cricket to be played in England and Wales until at least August 1.
Plans are being put together for what a reformatted season could look like, with the Professional Game Group (PGG) to present options to the ECB board next month. These include the use of regional groups, with thought to be given to matches being played with a limited number of supporters in attendance if not behind closed doors.
Both first-class and limited-overs cricket remain on the table as does the prospect of matches being played at all first-class grounds. Plans for live-streaming non-televised matches are also to be discussed.
A statement from the ECB said: “The specifics of the season remain subject to ongoing advice from UK Government and health experts, but the ambition remains to host domestic men’s and women’s cricket across England and Wales later this summer.”
The T20 Blast – which was set to begin today in the board’s original schedule – remains the focus of the ECB’s domestic priorities in helping cope with the financial fallout from the pandemic.
The recreational game remains suspended, although nets have opened up for club cricketers to undertake exercise. The ECB’s statement added its hopes for an earlier return for junior cricket, subject to discussions with the UK government.
“Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level,” said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison. “We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season and planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play. Whilst traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field.
“That can only happen though when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the game is our key priority.
“We have learned a lot and continue to learn about the safety protocols that would need to be in place to stage international cricket behind closed doors in this environment and those protocols will also need to apply to the domestic game.
“Across the recreational game it has been heart-warming to hear of clubs where players have returned to the nets. As children start returning to school in the coming weeks, we look forward to exploring how those guidelines and learnings can be deployed for cricket. This can then see the recreational game continue its phased return as soon as we have Government approval.”