ECB high-performance review proposes less domestic cricket

By Stephan ShemiltChief cricket writer
A county cricket match between Surrey and Essex at The Oval
Surrey are currently top of Division One in the County Championship

A smaller top division of the County Championship and fewer days of cricket are among proposals from a review into the men's game in England and Wales.

The review, led by Sir Andrew Strauss, is aimed at producing "sustained success" for the England men's team.

Any changes to the domestic structure would have to be agreed by the 18 first-class counties.

There is no proposal to cut the number of first-class counties and The Hundred will remain until at least 2028.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) "high-performance review"external-link is not limited to the domestic structure and also contains proposals around multi-year central contracts for England players, how those players can prepare for overseas conditions and the development of young players.

The review does not cover women's cricket.

The proposals will now enter a "consultation stage", with recommendations delivered in late September.

The first-class counties have already proposed that the County Championship remains at 14 matches per side for the 2023 season.

"Cricket is at a critical point with a fast-changing landscape and we must be prepared to be open minded and engage in considered debate if we are to move forward together and future-proof our game in the current climate," said former England captain Strauss.external-link

"I am looking forward to a healthy and constructive debate over the coming weeks before the men's high-performance review produces a final report which will provide the game with a clear and well-researched pathway to sustained England men's success and a healthy, vibrant, domestic game."

Consultation material produced as part of the review states that the performances of England's pace bowlers drops off away from home, spinners have limited opportunities in domestic games, England batters are less dominant in home internationals and English players get less experience overseas than those from other nations.

It also concludes that English domestic sides play, on average, more than teams in other countries and players have less time to rest.

Although the review proposes a smaller top division of the Championship and fewer days of cricket, it does not suggest how this can be achieved.

In terms of altering the domestic structure, it raises the possibility of moving the domestic 50-over competition to April, rather than its current position of August, where it runs alongside The Hundred.

That would lead to the possibility of first-class cricket being played at the same time as The Hundred. The review says only around 35% of the best red-ball players take part in The Hundred.

Away from the structure of the domestic game, proposals to aid England's performances away from home include trialling the use of a different ball in this country.

Cricket in England is usually played with a ball manufactured by Dukes, but other nations use other balls, which behave differently.

There is also a proposal for North v South first-class matches to be played overseas at the start of the English season, similar to 50-over series between the same sides that were played in the build-up to England's triumph at the 2019 World Cup.

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