English county cricket season to start on August 1


The English county cricket season will start on August 1, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Monday.

The format has still to be decided, although the ECB said this was "due to be agreed" by the 18 first-class counties in early July.

Officials had previously announced that the inaugural edition of the Hundred franchise competition had been scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first Test between England and the West Indies behind closed doors at Southampton, starting on July 8, is set to be the first major international cricket match since lockdown.

The opening round of the first-class County Championship was originally scheduled to begin on April 12.

The ECB has said the Twenty20 Blast is their most lucrative domestic format, with international fixtures the biggest cash draw.

Health and safety remains the major concern for the ECB, which has approved the return to training of first-class counties on or before July 1.

"It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men's domestic season for August 1 and one which will be welcomed by everyone connected with county cricket," said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.

Harrison, who previously warned a season without any fixtures at all could cost the ECB £252 million ($309 million), also welcomed the input of the counties and the Professional Cricketers' Association in preparing for a "domestic season unlike any the game has faced before".

Harrison stressed British government health guidance "will continue to shape our planning and preparation".

PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell said: "County cricket returning from August 1 is hugely positive for our membership.

"It has been an incredibly uncertain time for players who have waited patiently for some encouraging news."

Two-day friendly matches between Surrey and Middlesex and Yorkshire and Lancashire in July had already been announced.

The ECB said it remained "committed" to staging women's domestic cricket.

But a new structure of eight regions could be shelved for 2020 because of difficulties in ensuring medical personnel are in place to handle COVID-19 return-to-play protocols.

There was no word on Monday from the ECB on when recreational cricket would return.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week frustrated hopes for a quick restart, saying that a cricket ball was a "natural vector of disease".AFP

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