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News Analysis

Counties make short-term signings to cope with demands of schedule

Injuries and England call-ups leave teams scrambling for players ahead of format switch

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Lancashire have signed Will Williams on a short-term deal  •  Getty Images

Lancashire have signed Will Williams on a short-term deal  •  Getty Images

Several counties have made short-term signings to plug gaps in their squads that have been created by a combination of a jam-packed domestic schedule and injuries that have followed as a consequence, as well as England's simultaneous Test and ODI series.
Sixteen of the 18 counties were involved in the eight T20 Blast games on Friday night, with Surrey and Northamptonshire playing their most recent games on Thursday instead. There are a further eight fixtures in the County Championship starting on Sunday, with Essex and Northants the only two teams not involved.
The schedule is a result of a demand for a greater number of Championship fixtures to be played in the summer months, but has reduced many county's squads to their bare bones. The issue has been exacerbated by the loss of 25 players to England duty - the 11 who are playing against New Zealand in the second Test at Trent Bridge, plus 14 who will fly to Amsterdam on Tuesday morning ahead of a three-match ODI series against the Netherlands.
Lancashire are among the worst-affected sides, with Luke Wood, Liam Livingstone, Phil Salt and James Anderson on England duty, Hasan Ali returning to Pakistan and Saqib Mahmood and Jack Blatherwick both injured.
Matt Parkinson is available after his release from the England squad (Craig Overton and Harry Brook have also been released to play for Somerset and Yorkshire respectively) but Lancashire have also brought in Will Williams, a seamer from New Zealand with a formidable first-class record for Canterbury, on a short-term deal as an overseas player, which covers two games.
Durham are also missing four players on England duty - Ben Stokes, Alex Lees, Matthew Potts and Brydon Carse - so have brought in Williams' compatriot Rachin Ravindra, the spin-bowling allrounder, for their fixture against Worcestershire as a stop-gap replacement for Keegan Petersen.
Derbyshire have brought in Toby Pettman from Nottinghamshire as cover for the injured Ben Aitchison and Suranga Lakmal, with Hayden Kerr and George Scrimshaw likely to have their overs limited as they return to first-class cricket.
Sussex, meanwhile, have recruited Jack Brooks on a two-match loan from Somerset, with Ollie Robinson (back), George Garton (long Covid) and Fynn Hudson-Prentice (back rehab) all missing out.
Yorkshire are likely to give Dominic Drakes, who was primarily signed for T20 cricket, only the second first-class appearance of his career after naming him in a 13-man squad, with David Willey, Joe Root and Dawid Malan on England duty and Ben Coad and Matthew Fisher recovering from injuries.
While counties have pushed for a greater proportion of Championship games to be played in mid-summer, coaches often note how hard it is for players to switch between increasingly divergent formats of the game.
"It's always tough as a player, swapping formats," Richard Johnson, Middlesex's head coach, told the club's YouTube channel. "Back when we used to play, it used to be a red-ball game and then a 50-over game straight after, but the crossover wasn't too bad whereas now, with Championship cricket and T20, they're the extremes of our sport.
"It can be quite taxing and quite hard work - especially for the batters - to get back into that red-ball mode." With another round of Blast games following on Friday, they will have to get used to making the switch.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98