County news November 22, 2011

County review set to propose return to 50 overs

George Dobell

A return to 50-over cricket is likely to be among the recommendations made by David Morgan when he unveils his report to the ECB board at Lord's on Wednesday.

Morgan, a former chairman of the ECB and ICC, has canvassed widely over the last few months after the ECB appointed him to conduct an extensive review into the business of domestic cricket.

With the last World Cup reviving the reputation of 50-over cricket, which was abandoned in England after the 2009 season, it is thought likely that Morgan will recommend that the domestic game mirrors the international game. England have a poor record in the last five World Cups and some feel that playing 40-over cricket at domestic level has not helped them. The prospect of ODI cricket being contested over 40 overs has receded substantially.

It is not a decision that will please everyone, however. "I've yet to hear a convincing argument for a return to 50-over cricket," Mark Robinson, director of cricket at Sussex said. "Generally, England do very well in ODI cricket in England and not very well overseas. That suggests that the problem is not so much the format but the different conditions and pitches."

Chris Adams, Surrey's director of cricket, has expressed similar views and it's also thought that broadcasters prefer the 40-over version.

It is not the only contentious issue facing Morgan. Opinion is also divided over the schedule of Twenty20 cricket and the County Championship. Some favour the retention of a mid-summer break for the T20 tournament, while others favour a Friday night league played across the season. Again, the desire of the broadcasters is likely to have a strong influence.

Morgan has made no secret of his belief that too much cricket is currently played so the option of splitting the Championship into three conferences - an option that was rejected barely 18-months ago - has been proposed again by some counties. That would allow the competition to be contested over 12 or 14 games, but is likely to remain deeply unpopular with supporters. The possibility of reducing the number of first-class counties, a scenario suggested by Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves, is contrary to the ECB constitution and is unlikely to find meaningful support.

Morgan has been keen to reveal very little while compiling his report - it will not be publicly available - but he has made it clear that creating a more predictable fixture list was a key aim. In 2011 there were 18 different start times in the Friends Life t20 alone. Morgan hopes that attendances will increase if spectators are more easily able to predict the start time of games. Yet again, however, the desire of the broadcasters to televise cricket almost every night of the week, makes such an aspiration painfully hard to deliver.

The current broadcast deal does not end until the end of 2013, so Morgan's recommendations are unlikely to come into force before the 2014 season.

Another test

Meanwhile, the ECB have insisted that next summer's England-South Africa Test series will consist of just three games for "good cricketing reasons."

England's continued struggles in ODI cricket - particularly in World Cups - have convinced the team management that they need to concentrate on the format a little more. They have, therefore, arranged for a five-match ODI series against Australia next summer. More importantly, by hosting that series, they have also reached a reciprocal agreement with Cricket Australia whereby England will play an ODI series in Australia right ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

This, the ECB argue, will enable them to acclimatise to the conditions far better than has been the case in recent events. They also point out that England will play 15 Tests in 2012.

"We're hugely committed to Test cricket," a spokesman said. "But we're also keen to do better in ODI cricket. Sometimes it feels as we're 'damned if we do and damned if we don't.'"

Taylor made

Leicestershire have rejected an offer of £40,000 in compensation from Nottinghamshire for James Taylor, the 21-year-old batsman, but it still seems inevitable that he will be moving to Trent Bridge imminently.

Taylor is contracted to Leicestershire until the end of 2012 but the club gave him permission to talk to other counties and it is understood that he has agreed personal terms with Nottinghamshire. He will join former Leicestershire colleagues Stuart Broad and Harry Gurney at Trent Bridge.

"We did reject their first offer," Leicestershire chief executive, Mike Siddall, said. "But James is certain he wants to go to Notts and we're in on-going negotiations with them."

Leicestershire have also been hit by the retirement of Martin van Jaarsveld, who signed for the club from Kent only weeks ago. They are, therefore, scouring the market for an overseas batsman. Mohammad Yousuf is thought to be one option.

The club are expected to declare a profit of around £300,000 for the last year - a huge improvement on the loss of £400,000 the previous year - and have recently agreed the wording of a deed of variation document with the City Council relating to the covenant on their Grace Road ground.

The club bought the ground in 1964 but, under the terms of the covenant, could receive only £24,000 should they sell it. The council would receive the rest. That left the club struggling to borrow money and, as Siddall puts it: "our cash flow suggests we need an overdraft facility."

The new agreement - an agreement that was reached in April only to fall apart as officials at the council had a last-minute change of heart - will see the figure raised to £500,000. In the longer-term, the club would like the council to abandon the covenant completely and allow Leicestershire to borrow against the value of their ground. Grace Road is thought to be worth almost £3million.

BBC cuts threaten coverage

A campaign to persuade the BBC to retain their ball-by-ball coverage of county cricket has urged supporters to make their views known to the cooperation.

If the proposed cuts to BBC local radio take place, it appears likely that there will be little or no ball-by-ball coverage of domestic cricket after the end of the 2012 season.

The BBC currently offers ball-by-ball on-line coverage for every game played by 11 of the first-class counties and the limited-overs games of the other seven counties. The BBC Trust are currently consulting on the proposed cuts. Campaigners urge supporters to learn more and express their support here:

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jeff on November 23, 2011, 16:31 GMT

    Not that it will ever happen, but here's how you fix county cricket... halve the number of teams to 9, based at the 9 test match grounds. Start the season on the last Wednesday in April play 8 rounds of CC matches running each Wed-Sat with a corresponding 50 over match between the same teams on the Sunday.Take a 3 week break for a T20 tournament over late June/early July. Then play the return 8 fixtures of CC/50 over matches, again on Wed-Sat/Sun until the first week in September. This means that all 9 teams will play 16 CC and 16 50 over matches during the season. Then you have a weeks gap before playing the final match of the season, a 50 over final at lords between the 2 top 50 over teams. Of course, the one flaw in my plan is that it requires 9 turkeys to vote for christmas...

  • Dave on November 23, 2011, 16:03 GMT

    Well the shameful decision to sacrifice the SA fourth test for a meaningless ODI series. With the way the ECB has been going the last few years with TV money, nothing surprises me. But with domestic cricket, Mon-Thurs championship matches only make sense because besides that first few days of the county season when the weather is nice, nobody besides a few OAP's attend these matches. Even when these matches run in the weekends, it is still watched by Jack and his dog. CC is the most important competition as it is responsible for helping groom future international cricketers. A regional conference is something I or other fans wouldn't want, but unfortunately it is economic reality; nostalgia doesn't play the bills. With the 50 overs, lets admit the ECB are being sensible with making the CB40 into CB50, as there was a startling fact that in the last world cup, all four semi finalists played domestic 50 overs and the ones who failed miserably in the previous round only played 40 overs.

  • Jeff on November 23, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    Back in 2010 I looked at the scheduling of county fixtures and found that Saturday was the day of the week with LEAST cricket scheduled! The breakdown for that season was as follows: Sat (85 days), Mon (93), Tue (114), Wed (132), Fri (138), Thu (146) & Sun (148). And more than that, when you looked at individual competitions, Sat was the least likely day to stage CC matches (only 55 days, of which 21 were scheduled as day 4) and it was also the 2nd least likely day to stage T20 cricket (only Monday staged less T20.) I thought that football might be a factor (ie not wanting to schedule saturday cricket due to clashes with Saturday football matches) but unfortunately Saturday was also the day with least cricket scheduled even when the domestic football season was on its summer break !!

    And they wonder why nobody goes to watch it...

  • Adrian on November 23, 2011, 12:49 GMT

    Surely the best way to prepare for 50 over international cricket is to play 50 over domestic cricket. It seems odd that a lot of club teams play 50 over league cricket, but when you play for your county it's 40 overs before going back to 50 overs at international level. WillPash makes a good point about one day matches being played in parallel to first class matches. That wouldn't be possible all the time, but when it is; it should definitely be encouraged. Also I don't understand why some weeks during the season there are only 2 or 3 championship games played in each division rather than 4. It creates some odd gaps where there needn't be any. The lack of a 4th test against SA is very disappointing. The last series against them 2 years ago was crying out for a deciding 5th test (just as the recent SA v Aus series desperately needed a 3rd). To go back to only 6 tests during the summer seems like a step backwards.

  • Michael on November 23, 2011, 12:25 GMT

    Every time the administrators decide to review the structure of the county game which is approximately every year they are admitting that the last cghanges made were the wrong ones and this has bbeen going on since the late 1990's. season after season used to pass along well honed and smooth lines, replicating the previous season with a comfortqabel grace and ease. Then they decided to upend the whole thing and since they started to chnage the formats of the season it has been one long experimention process. Every year sees some sort of fix and then a year later anpother is put in place to unfix the previous fix. It would make for great sitcom if it was not such a total pain in the backside. Tinkering has been the order of the day for too long and it is time to let others do this job and get it right the first time as the present lot are incapable of doing.

  • Mark on November 23, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    The prospective end to county cricket ball-by-ball is apalling. The service had a slow start but has increased enomously over the last few years and is a great taining ground fo commentators as well as publicity for a game watch by more and more people (despite the publicity to the contrary). The BBC has some superb commentators on the county circuit.

  • Paul on November 23, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    I think England suffer in 50 over cricket overseas because we do not play the same format NOR in the same environment. As well as switching back to 50 overs, we should encourage more batsman friendly pitches where possible and use Kookaburra balls. Matches under lights on seamer friendly pitches, where 200 is a decent score, is not going to produce players who can win ODIs overseas. However, it all comes down to money and what the ECB can squeeze out of Sky. If they want a match every evening, devoid of atmosphere because there are no spectators and where skill levels are low as journeyman seamers take 3-23 off their eight overs (hailed as a masterclass in good old fashioned line and length by Charles Colville), then we will be stuck with what we currently have and won't see any progress.

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Starting 4 day games on a Monday is a terrible idea, they did it the in the 2010 season and it meant that only retirees could go. This season more games had days on Fridays and Saturdays, meaning people who work like myself could go. If you want more interest in the County Championship, at least schedule the games so people can get to them! Also, attendances at Twenty20 matches have been declining in recent years as the number of group stage games has declined- in 2010 the football World Cup was blamed for this but I've seen the same happen this year at Lancashire with no major sporting event clashing with the county season.

  • Satish on November 23, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    Godo thing is moving back to 50 over format.. It will help them to prepare better for internationals.. The world cricket fans would demand only one thing from England.. To select England 11 rather than migrating players from other countries to play internationals.. It is fine with domestic..

  • Ricardo on November 23, 2011, 1:22 GMT

    because of the financial situation, the conference may be the only option. this may free up some more T20 one day time, or leave a gap so county players can avoid burn out. if the T20 format can be designed to generate revenue, then counties may be able to survive by playing 4 day games regionally and travelling less.

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