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Cricket season ends but rows are just starting

It isn’t only football bracing for an uncomfortable winter.

Sir Andrew Strauss
Sir Andrew Strauss

Though the cricket season might have concluded yesterday, the real battle is only just beginning as counties consult with their members and each other over the recommendations made in Sir Andrew Strauss’s high performance review.

Of the 18 counties, 15 are member-owned and it is the latter – so often ignored by the game’s decision-makers – who are flexing their muscles in opposition to a plan which would represent the biggest shake-up of domestic cricket for decades, with a reduced Championship and T20 Blast schedule while The Hundred, that competition in which the ECB have invested so much and committed so much of the summer to, stays untouched.

Those at Lancashire and Yorkshire have already forced emergency general meetings, while Warwickshire’s have also been collecting signatures to do the same if required. It is fair to assume Strauss and the ECB, who require 12 of the 18 counties to agree to the plan, didn’t bank on this.

Yorkshire in particular are an interesting case. Relegated yesterday from Division One, after Liam Norwell’s performance for the ages for Warwickshire, there would appear to be no sporting sense in signing up to a proposal which in its current guise would see the top flight cut from 10 to six teams in 2024, effectively keeping the White Rose down for at least two seasons.

But then you wonder how much commercial concerns might usurp sporting? Headingley, after all, is a Test match venue and it is the ECB who decide on who gets what.

Such is the level of opposition to the plans, some form of compromise seems inevitable if they are to stand any chance of being passed.

Yet finding common ground won’t be straightforward. While counties without Test match venues might agree to a 10-match championship, provided the current number of Blast fixtures (14) is maintained, the opposite is true elsewhere. One also wonders when the penny might drop with players that fewer fixtures will likely mean smaller squads?

Even if counties do reach a consensus, they still have to sell it to their members. This promises to be a very interesting winter indeed.

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