Cricket suspension extends to July as ECB discuss postponing The Hundred until 2021 to save summer season
New competition was due to be based on big-name signings and lucrative matchdays, which both look impossible to carry out due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions
Originally the suspension put in place on the domestic game was until 28 May. After meeting on Thursday via video calls to assess the situation once more, the governing body made the decision to extend that to 1 July on advice from government and health experts, and further consultation with broadcast partners.
It was also decided that an additional board meeting will take place next Wednesday to determine whether or not The Hundred will take place this summer. The new competition was originally scheduled to start on 17 July and run through to the middle of August.
However, the prospect of a truncated season because of coronavirus has meant reevaluating priorities for cricket this summer, putting The Hundred third behind international cricket and the T20 Blast.
There is a possibility it will have to wait until 2021 to be rolled out, not least because of the lack of space in any potential 2020 fixture-list but because its core values rely on much more than just a new form of the game. The core factors that made it stand out were a raft of top quality overseas stars available for the whole competition and attracting new fans to the game.
With restrictions on travel set to continue for the foreseeable future, likewise with guidelines around social distancing meaning any matches played this season will have to take place behind closed doors, the tournament's cutting edge will be severely blunted.
The T20 Blast, which involves all 18 counties rather than just the eight city-based teams of the Hundred, has been officially pushed as late in the season as possible to give it the best chance of being staged. Nine rounds of the County Championship will be lost, and though there was strong talk there will be no first-class cricket at all this summer, the ECB says blocks for red- and white-ball cricket will be held in any revised schedule.
The hope internationals due to take place before July, such as the men’s three-Test series with West Indies and the women’s T20s and ODIs against India, will be able to take place later. Women’s cricket, in particular, remains in a precarious position with 2020 the year its elite domestic structure was due to be rolled out. That will be evaluated down the line.
Any solution to playing cricket this summer will rely on government advice and controlled environments where the safety of players and of those involved in putting matches on can be guaranteed. Those remain key priorities for the ECB as they look to salvage a season that could cost them dearly if it passes without any on-field action.
In a statement released by the ECB, chief executive officer Tom Harrison said: “As much as we remain hopeful that we can deliver some cricket this summer, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and our priority – over and above the playing of professional sport – will be to protect the vulnerable, key workers and society as a whole over,"
“Our biggest challenge, along with other sports, is how we could seek to implement a bio-secure solution that offers optimum safety and security for all concerned. The guidance we receive from Westminster will help us shape how we deliver this.
"I want to thank everyone involved in this complex and sensitive work. There have clearly never been times like this and my colleagues at the ECB and across the game have been exemplary in this period. It has been refreshing, but not surprising, to see how cricket has come together.”