Cut down County Championship schedule and reward multi-format England players, says Andrew Strauss review

·2-min read
Andrew Strauss has laid out his plan for the domestic game  (Getty Images)
Andrew Strauss has laid out his plan for the domestic game (Getty Images)

The County Championship will remain at 14 matches for the 2023 season, but Andrew Strauss’s High Performance Review has recommended a reduction in domestic cricket in coming years.

Strauss was put in charge of a review into English men’s professional cricket following England’s dismal Ashes over the winter. His panel heard from people from within cricket and beyond to inform the report with the aim of narrowing the gap between domestic and international cricket in a rapidly-changing landscape.

On Friday, Strauss made public the consultation document his review sent to the first-class counties last night. The document states early that “this review has not looked at, and will not seek to change, the number of first-class counties”.

It is now the counties’ responsibility to use the report to instruct decisions in the coming weeks about the future structure of the county game. A two-thirds majority of the counties is required to enact changes. Next season will still have 14 matches, but how the divisions are allocated will be decided by the counties.

“This will allow more time for the debate about the best long-term structure from 2024 onwards to take place,” said Strauss.

Long term, the report recommends:

  • Playing less domestic cricket, with counties currently scheduled to play 79 days’ of action in a season.

  • Having fewer teams in the top flight of the County Championship in order to promote “best v best” action; whether that would mean a split of 6-12 or 7-11 remains to be seen.

  • Moving the 50-over competition — currently played at the same time as the Hundred — back to the start of the season, “with a smaller group stage and emphasis on knockouts”.

  • A greater emphasis on England Lions’ red-ball cricket, as well as North v South red-ball fixtures in the UAE before the season begins to expose players of potential to overseas conditions.

  • Making England men’s central contracts “multi-year”, with a higher allocation to those who play more than one format.

“Our role in this process has simply been to consult the best thought leaders in high performance and analyse the most robust data,” wrote Strauss in a blog accompanying the document.

“We have made our initial proposals and findings and now it will be for the first-class counties to make any decisions over domestic structures — all we can do is provide informed recommendations.

“We want a thriving and future-proofed men’s domestic game, in which all 18 first-class counties are established at the heart of our ambitions.

“From an England perspective the proposals look at how we could evolve central contracts to offer more security to our high-profile players and better reflect the changing dynamics in the world game.”

Strauss promised that any decisions would include consultation with cricket supporters as well as the game’s leaders.