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News

Keaton Jennings argues against reduction in number of County Championship fixtures

"I think 14 games is a good amount," says Lancashire opener in response to Strauss review recommendations

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
15-Sep-2022
Keaton Jennings has called for the Championship season not to be reduced  •  Getty Images

Keaton Jennings has called for the Championship season not to be reduced  •  Getty Images

Keaton Jennings, the Lancashire and England opener, has called for the structure of the English season to be improved but has opposed the idea put forward by Andrew Strauss's high-performance review that county cricketers need to play less or that the number of Championship matches should be reduced from 14.
On Saturday, Jennings will lead out Lancashire against Kent in the Royal London Cup final at Trent Bridge at the end of a week in which the Emirates Old Trafford side have had no game. That works well as regards preparation for a white-ball match but it also means that in the 53 days from July 29 to September 19, Dane Vilas' team will have played just one four-day game.
Other counties can point to similar eccentricities, not all of them caused by the Hundred, and Jennings' comments come at the end of a week in which Somerset's board told the ECB that the current schedule is "unacceptable".
"In my opinion you can keep the 14 County Championship games and that's only what Ben Stokes said on social media a few weeks ago," said Jennings. "But you can factor in breaks, so that you can play three four-day games and then have a break from the Championship. I think my view is representative and it certainly echoes what the England captain said.
"I think 14 games is a good amount and the cricket we play is of good quality, but the problem comes when you have a week off at the start of April and then another at the start of September. Including the Royal London Final, we play 13 days in September whereas in April we were playing 12 in 17."
Lancashire's problems were compounded at the start of the season by the fact that having had a week off before their competitive programme began they then played six four-day games on the trot, losing the last of them by an innings to Essex, who had just had a week off. But Lancashire are not alone. Leicestershire played seven games in succession between April 7 and May 22 and other counties have identified similar problems with their schedule.
Critics have also wondered why the five-week length of the Hundred, if not its number of games, cannot be included in any review, and Jennings' comments also suggest that the view of county cricketers may be far more nuanced than Strauss's generalisation that the players want to play less might indicate. Certainly Jennings supports the view that young cricketers need to play throughout the season if they are to be properly prepared for the challenges they will face.
"You can't only play cricket in April and September, you need to play cricket throughout the season," Jennings said. "Bowlers need to learn how to take wickets when the sun's out and pitches are flat, batters need to work out how to get runs when it's nipping around. The skillsets are different and we need go all the way through the summer.
"We need to ensure we have the skillset to be able to adapt according to the conditions. You can factor in break time that allows teams to refresh and then come back with good intensity. I don't think we should play less but the season needs to be structured better."

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications