Virus pushes English cricket season back until July

London (AFP) –


Cricket chiefs announced Friday that no professional cricket would be played in England and Wales until July at the earliest as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked fresh havoc on the international sporting calendar

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said attempts would be made to reschedule international fixtures in the period from July until the end of September, including the West Indies Test tour of England.

Global cricket is at a standstill as a result of COVID-19, with stark warnings issued over the damaging economic fallout.

ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison said the plan was to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the English season to give the best chance of play.

The West Indies tour, including three Tests, had been due to start on June 4.

A women's series between England and India, comprising one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches, was scheduled for later in that month.

Before that the county championship had been due to begin two weeks ago, on April 12.

"There will be no cricket unless it's safe to play," said Harrison. "Our schedule will only go ahead if government guidance permits.

"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."

Under the plans, nine rounds of fixtures will be lost in the four-day county championship season, but time slots for red-ball and white-ball cricket will remain in a revised schedule.

The lucrative Twenty20 Blast will be pushed as late in the season as possible. All matches previously scheduled in June will be moved later in the season.

- Hundred under threat? -

The ECB will discuss the inaugural Hundred competition next week, following a request to dedicate a further session to the competition

The inaugural edition of the tournament, a new 100-balls-per-side format to be played by eight franchises rather than English cricket's established 18 first-class counties, is meant to start in July.

ECB officials have long insisted it will attract a new audience, considered vital to safeguarding cricket's future in its homeland.

The ECB late last month announced £61 million ($75 million) aid package in response to the "once in a generation" challenge of the coronavirus outbreak.

The financial problems facing the English game were underlined on Thursday when Middlesex announced they had furloughed all players and most support staff until further notice in order to benefit from the British government's coronavirus job retention scheme.

Problems for the English game are reflected across the globe.

South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka set for June was officially called off earlier this week with no new date set and the world's richest cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League, has been indefinitely suspended.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the Twenty20 competition, already pushed back from its original start date of March 29 would only start when it was safe to do so.

Cricket Australia's chief executive chief executive Kevin Roberts warned this week that the organisation could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if this year's Test tour by India were scrapped.

But global cricket chiefs said they were still making plans for this year's Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, due to start in October.