Warwickshire v Lancashire, Edgbaston, 3rd day July 17, 2009

Season faces uncertain plans

George Dobell at Edgbaston

Warwickshire 370 for 8 (Bell 106, Trott 79, Westwood 60, Clarke 54) v Lancashire

There was an air of futility at Edgbaston as Warwickshire and Lancashire fought for bonus points amid the showers.

But it is not just the weather rendering this game meaningless. It is also changes mooted by the ECB that could make this whole season something of a farce.

For there may well be no promotion or relegation this year. If changes currently being discussed are agreed - and it's simply too close to call at present - it will make little difference if these teams finish sixth or ninth.

Indeed it appears everything is under consideration: a return to three-day cricket; the introduction of three conferences rather than two divisions; a 12, 14 or 16 match championship season; and city (rather than county) cricket. And, crazy though it sounds, it's all to be announced in August and implemented next season.

The driving force of the changes is the increase in Twenty20 cricket. Most pertinently, the scheduling of the Champions League, next September, has convinced the ECB that they need to shorten the season.

At quite a cost, however. The ECB have suggested a raft of different proposals aimed at 'easing scheduling.' Even they admit, however, that the 'integrity' of the championship may be compromised.

Against this backdrop, Lancashire and Warwickshire traded blows at a soggy Edgbaston. Though only 35 overs were possible, the hosts garnered another two batting bonus points, while the visitors claimed one more bowling point.

The most impressive performances came from two former England men with contrasting claims for a recall. For while Sajid Mahmood is considered to be very much on the England radar, Rikki Clarke has fallen out of contention after a couple of poor seasons.

Mahmood has certainly performed well here. He has bowled with pace and control and fully deserved the wicket of Jonathan Trott with an excellent slower-ball yorker.

Clarke also impressed, however. Playing admirably straight, he timed the ball well and provided a gentle reminder that he could be the natural successor to Andrew Flintoff in the England Test side if only consistency can be added to the talent. The manner of his dismissal, cutting directly to point, suggested he had some way to go.

Chris Woakes also batted well. One pulled six bore the hallmark of real class, while he also did well to deny the admirable Oliver Newby. The others struggled. Tim Ambrose clipped to mid-wicket, before Ant Botha's indecision over his pull shot resulted in a skied catch to the keeper. Warwickshire require another 30 runs to take full batting bonus points for the sixth time in seven games.

Meanwhile the club stated that they hoped their new overseas player, Indian fast bowler Sreesanth, would be with them in between 10 days to two weeks.

George Dobell is chief cricket writer for Spin Magazine