County news November 25, 2015

ECB considers ditching the toss in Division Two

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The ECB are considering scrapping the toss in Division Two County Championship cricket in a bid to encourage counties to produce better pitches.

Instead of a toss, the visiting team will be allowed to decide whether to bat or bowl first. The hope is that it will encourage counties and their groundstaffs to prepare less bowler-friendly wickets in the knowledge that their opposition will have the choice of have to exploit them.

The idea, revealed by the Telegraph, has been recommended by the ECB's cricket committee and will now be discussed by the executive board. If the move is agreed, as seems likely, it could be introduced for the 2016 season.

There has been growing concern that the standard of pitches in county cricket - particularly in the Division Two - is compromising the development of players. Specifically, the role of spinners has become marginalised on surfaces that sometimes provide extravagant help to medium-pace seamers while batsmen, fearful they will receive an unplayable delivery sooner rather than later, have responded by playing more aggressively. As a result, some of the skills required to succeed in Test cricket - patience, discipline and consistency - have been lost.

Eoin Morgan, the England limited-overs captain, was enthused by the idea. "If it's to improve the standard of wickets that we play on, and potentially produce a couple of wickets where spin might be conducive to that particular ground, I think absolutely," he told BBC Test Match Special.

"The benefit in county cricket might not be at the very beginning, but potentially for younger guys coming through - they'll develop different skills which will in turn give them a greater base, if they do get picked for England, to play around the world and do it successfully."

As Andy Flower, the former England coach and now ECB technical director of elite coaching, put it recently: "The pitches are a real problem. We have a situation now where dibbly-dobbly bowlers like Jesse Ryder - and no disrespect to him, because he's a fine cricketer - are match-winners in county cricket.

"Spin bowlers don't develop because the medium-pacers bowl their overs and batsmen are not exposed to quality spin. The necessity for fast bowlers is negated because the medium-pacers do the work but, when you get to international cricket, the pitches are completely different and the qualities that proved successful in county cricket will be of little use. Dibbly-dobbly bowlers are not going to win you Test matches. Their abilities are exaggerated by green county pitches.

"You can watch a game in Division Two of the County Championship and not see a bouncer bowler. That's a problem, because the first thing that a batsman will be tested by in international cricket is the short ball.

"The pitches are contributing to the divide between county and international cricket and leaving us - the coaches at Loughborough - needing to bridge a significant gap in standard."

The ECB are especially mindful to produce more opportunities for spin bowlers. Peter Such, the ECB's lead spin bowling coach, recently told ESPNcricinfo: "In overseas Test cricket somewhere between 46-48% of overs are bowled by spinners, but in county cricket that figure is around 20%." At a couple of division two counties, that figure drops below 10% at home games.

"The pitches tend to start damp, which makes them seam-bowler dominated and makes it very hard for spin bowlers to break through," Such said. "We need to do more to encourage spin bowling."

If the trial is successful, it is possible it could be expanded to include Division One cricket and perhaps, in time, even Test cricket. It is has become relatively rare for sides to win Test series away from home and some feel that such a move could play a part in correcting the imbalance.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jason on November 27, 2015, 7:32 GMT

    @davefromluton, firstly the Kookuburra doesnt give more chance of spin than the duke, and secondly spinners prefer a harder ball, and from memory the Duke lasts longer than the kook in that area as well.

  • David on November 26, 2015, 17:25 GMT

    If you want to encourage spin 1 drop the Duke ball in favour of the Kookaburra 2don't have a new ball until 100 overs

  • Jason on November 26, 2015, 13:55 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, I think there are 2 main problems, one is Limited overs, where spinners are taught to spear it in at the legs, to restrict runs and create dotballs, in tests dotballs dont matter, so it becomes learned behaviour,

    The pitches are the biggest issue, as In order to get good spinning pitches you need to have dry conditions, like the SC where pitches litterally bake and then crumble, the only way to achieve that in the UK is with Rain then as it dries you get a similar effect with the 'crust' that forms.

    Like me you probably watched a lot of Tests on the BBC, how many times did we see cracks breaking apart on a good length on day 4/5, such that you could push a key into them? How many do we see now, in the UK?

  • ian on November 26, 2015, 10:42 GMT

    YorkshirePud: I have already nailed my colours to that particular mast! See my comment under Rob Steen's piece: Is the County Championship anti-spin? on 7 October. I'm very interested in suggesting ways in which a balance between seamer wicket-taking and spinner wicket-taking can be achieved. In view of pitches in the subcontinent and the UAE (that are quite similar, curiously enough), England has to address the dearth of spin bowlers in the CC to stand a chance of competing in those locations. The canniest offie in the country is Gareth Batty, now a much much bowler than when he was given his chance ten years ago. He may be getting on, but I'm a certain as anyone can be that he'd have had a hat full in The UAE. He's a Yorkie too, as you probably know! You get very few spinners who are at their best before the age of thirty or more. I'm constantly surprised that the selectors know so little about the age when spinners really come into their own.

  • Dean on November 26, 2015, 10:03 GMT

    I'm not totally convinced this will work but at least the ECB have recognised that there is an issue producing spinners of international standard, therefore give it a go for a year and see what happens. If it doesn't work there are other things they can try, such as using the same pitch twice, meaning counties would only need to produce 4 pitches a season for FC cricket.

  • Jason on November 26, 2015, 8:04 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, the problem is not the lack of spinners, but the lack of pitches that take spin, I personally would prefer that a pitch is left uncovered for 24 hours before a game and is not covered during the game.

    This will allow the pitches to start to be weathered properly, and might even produce some more traditional sticky dogs or , it would also increase batsmens skills. The downside, we will possibly see lots of 2-3 day games with incredibly low scores in the short term as batsmen adjust thier techniques, but in the long term it should improve them.

    Its also not as if batsmen dont have enough protective equipment to take the 'danger' out of batting on such wickets.

  • Gary on November 26, 2015, 6:26 GMT

    Would this not encourage counties to produce flat batting pitches? The last thing a county side would want to do if to produce a bat or bowl first pitch as it automatically gives advantage to your opponent. I think the home side should get the choice as they are supposed to have the advantage or we could end up seeing fans coming to watch their side play only to see them getting skittled for 79 on an overcast morning while the opposition get bright sunshine the next day and win the match inside 3 days. How long before people get tired watching their side lose before they give up attending matches? But, I guess their is an upside to this as it would help cricketers to develop the resolve to be playing against the odds. But, this should still be when going away and trying to beat another side in their own backyard (unlike the England have been doing recently compared to playing at home).

  • Damien on November 26, 2015, 1:50 GMT

    The biggest problem with bringing this idea into play is that captains of teams promoted into Division 1 won't have any idea of what to do with the small metal discs they're asked to propel into the air at the start of a match.

  • ian on November 25, 2015, 23:17 GMT

    I can't see the merit in foregoing the toss to give an away team some compensatory advantage I would go a different route to get spinners more in the game - apparently the reason for this proposed change. My idea: the numbers of overs bowled in a day should be completed by 6.10pm. For every unbowled over at that point, the offending side is penalised ten runs. Notionally, in a 96 over day of six hours' play the rate required is 16 overs per hour's play. I have added 10 minutes to allow for fall of wickets and the umps would have discretion to add time for injuries and othe unforeseen hold ups. If seamers are bowling throughout the first session, 30 overs is the usual maximum. Already the fielding captain would know he is 'down two' he will have to catch up in the afternoon session and again in the evening, If the quicks have bowled the almost all the first 40-50 ovrs, the last session will be spin-dominated. And batsmen should be subject to the Timed Out Law! (Law 31).

  • xxxxx on November 25, 2015, 22:37 GMT

    With all due respect to Henrik Loven perhaps, for once, the manure is in the centre of the playing field rather than in the committee rooms. Whether due to incompetence or intentional to gain an advantage, poor pitches are the bane of FC and Test cricket throughout the world and the very occasional points deduction is doing little to address the problem. A series of home team losses would certainly concentrate minds on enabling an adequate contest between bat and ball ....... and isn't that what cricket and the spirit of cricket is supposed to be all about?

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