County news November 26, 2015

No mandatory toss in the County Championship

ESPNcricinfo staff

In a departure from hundreds of years of cricket tradition, there will be no mandatory toss in either division of the English County Championship in the 2016 season, after the ECB confirmed they were implementing an experiment to try to encourage the development of spin bowling.

Instead of the toss, something that was recorded as taking place as far back as the 1700s, the visiting team will first have the choice of whether they want to field first. If they don't wish to take up that option the toss will take place as it always has.

There has been growing concern that the standard of pitches in county cricket - particularly in 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 that 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.

Initial reports about the move had centred on the trial being used only in Division Two of the Championship but, after a meeting of the ECB cricket committee at Lord's on Thursday, it was decided to implement it across the board in four-day cricket.

"By giving the away team the option of bowling first, we hope the home side will be encouraged to produce the best possible four-day pitch," Peter Wright, the chairman of the cricket committee, said. "That will be good for cricket in general, and not only for spinners: batsmen should also benefit, from better pitches which will lead to them facing more spin bowling; and if pitches start drier, the ball may scuff up a bit more and produce more reverse swing.

"It isn't all about spin. There has been concern for some years about some Championship pitches. But it is fair to say that the plight of spin bowling in this country brought things into focus.

"Of course counties want to win matches, and that generally means taking 20 wickets. That has to be a reason we have seen a lot of pitches that start a bit green and damp, and get better as the game goes on, rather than deteriorating to help the spinners. But another main function of the County Championship is to develop players for England. We don't think it has been serving that purpose for spinners.

"We did originally consider introducing this as a trial in one division only but, after further discussion and debate today, we have decided to extend this to both divisions of the County Championship. We believe this is an innovation which will be watched closely well beyond the County Championship. We will then need to assess how successful the trial has been at the end of the 2016 season before deciding whether to continue with this."

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. We need to do more to encourage spin bowling."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul on December 1, 2015, 19:33 GMT

    The toss I would make would be to toss some of these cricket committee guys out of the game , especially those wanting to reduce the Championship.

  • Ian on November 29, 2015, 22:56 GMT

    Well, it's going to happen. Either it will be a dead duck, in the way that the timing of power plays in ODIs were at the option of the relevant captain or there will be some significant unintended consequences. I'm far from convinced it will bring on new spin bowlers, much as I respect Peter Such.

  • John on November 28, 2015, 18:45 GMT

    @MARKATNOTTS ON NOVEMBER 28, 2015, 13:10 GMT - My main points are that 1 - I feel in England it's often the weather conditions and not the pitch which make it a good pitch to bat on or bowl on . 2 - I feel we will always go for the guy who can bat a bit , even if his spin threat is minimal. I still feel that England have in recent years obsessed with the spinner being able to bat a bit. I even wonder if Swann would have played all those games if he batted/fielded like Monty? The treatment of Monty in SL after what he did in UAE and Kerrigan (just 6 overs and never trusted to bowl another delivery) and Tredwell in white ball cricket just shows how much contempt we have shown spinners at international level and now all the fingers seem to be pointing at our groundsmen rather than looking at what those in the set up may have done wrong

  • Mark on November 28, 2015, 13:10 GMT

    True JG2704, but with regards the weather, even if it is sunny early season the pitches won't offer much spinners as they are still hardening up after winter. Having more games in late July early August at least takes that problem out of the equation. Additionally if the CC is cut to 14 games at some point, I bet it won't be the games in April and May that are cut! Notts - where there is nothing for spinners early season even when the pitch is bare will indeed be seeing some high scoring draws this year!

  • John on November 28, 2015, 12:55 GMT

    Finally , the selectors give the impression these days that even if they found a spinner who was potentially the real deal , they'd prefer to go with a less skilled guy who could score some runs. Sorry @MARK@NOTTS but look at Patel's selection. In test cricket he's (renowned player of spin) played every test in SC and has a HS of 42 and a BB of 2 for. His recent seasons record for Notts has been poor in the CC. I'm not anti Notts or ageist and I'd even say (even just as a stop gap) Read brings more to the table for selection as a WK. But 3 examples of them discriminating against spinners who can't bat are 1 - Monty being dropped after one bad test in SL after reeking havok in UAE , 2 , Kerrigan only given 6 overs in a whole test , 3 , Tredwell (our most consistent bowler in white ball cricket since Swann) being totally out of the picture having done nothing wrong on the pitch , but because (on paper) we have this obsession to bat deeper

  • John on November 28, 2015, 12:41 GMT

    I've also just read the other article where comms are closed and it says "One of the myriad suggestions for "improving" Test match cricket is to abandon the toss in favour of giving the visiting captain the choice of whether to bat or bowl, thus negating the home side's opportunity to doctor a pitch in their favour" - Surely (if there is pitch doctoring) it would only work if the home side won the toss , which unless the toss is fixed they would have a 50% chance of winning. Even if the away captain is unsure of how a doctored pitch will play he still has a 50% chance of making the right call, In the last Ashes series where we had some booing incessantly about the advantage of winning the toss , 2 of the 5 results went for the side who lost the toss. I feel the main issue in England is that it's often the weather as opposed to the pitch which makes it a favourable toss to win.

  • John on November 28, 2015, 12:30 GMT

    @MARKATNOTTS ON NOVEMBER 27, 2015, 12:18 GMT - One problem is you can never tell in advance which months you are going to get damp weather or humid conditions. But I think one glaring issue which the selectors have somehow overlooked is that much of it (decent pitches to bowl or bat on) is dependant on weather and I'm sure even the best groundsmen in the world can only do so much when hampered with the weather. So basically the ECBs rule automatically gives the advantage to the away side and I even wonder if it could affect home attendances - if the fan knows that on an overcast day they'll be up against it from day one (when put into bat) or likewise on a dry and sunny day (if made to toil in the field). I'd also argue that it could lead groundsmen towards trying to prepare pitches which do little so that home teams go safety first and lead towards less results/more draws which is something which I thought ECB were trying to encourage against happening.

  • Pelham on November 27, 2015, 16:30 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding on November 27, 2015, 10:29 GMT: These issues have already arisen with points deductions and a workable solution has been found, through an automatic allowance of two minutes for each wicket and umpires' discretion to allow time for other stoppages.

  • andrew on November 27, 2015, 14:23 GMT

    With such a high proportion of County Championship games played in April, early May and September it'll be interesting to see if this change achieves much more than just a higher proportion of wins by the away side.

  • Mark on November 27, 2015, 12:18 GMT

    "The pitches tend to start damp, which makes them seam-bowler dominated and makes it very hard for spin bowlers to break through. We need to do more to encourage spin bowling." Why on earth will removing the toss resolve this completely? It is quite clear that far too many CC matches are played in April and May and hardly any in August, so rather than address the root of the problem, they are going to use a "fad trendy" idea to skirt round the issue. I was pointing out the problem before Swann retired and Monty lost his way.

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