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Bridging the gap

by Justin Rourke

2021 is now officially the worst year of test cricket for England ever, perhaps that can drive the change that is needed.

A full revamp of our first-class system providing an elite competition that sits above county cricket and below test cricket.

This will involve making some tough decisions, it will require a ‘franchise’ style set up that is fed from the country structure. Despite its obvious flaws, we should seek to take the good elements of The Hundred and the good elements of the Australian domestic system.

Eight teams based in; Durham, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Somerset, Essex, London South, London North. (it is important to spread the geography and reward the areas such as Durham and Somerset who produce a lot of good young cricketers).

They each contract 17 players for the season – that must consist of 8 batsmen, 2 keepers, 2 spinners, 5 seam bowlers who are England qualified. Injury replacements must be called up from the local leagues/county system.

A point for debate is the inclusion of overseas players, given that there are only 136 spaces available I am inclined to think that we do not ‘need’ them. Of course, the best players do allow our players to learn, but equally we are allowing opposition players to learn our pitches, conditions and players. On balance I say no overseas players.

Each team plays each other once (the home/away status switches each season) with the top 4 playing a ‘play off’ style semi-final of 1st plays 4th and 2nd plays 3rd with the top 2 teams at home and then playing a Lords Final.

Every team plays 7 matches minimum, and the maximum games are 9.

All matches are played with a kookaburra ball (to help bowlers learn the skills needed with less assistance, and to allow to learn to bat time).

The conditions mirror test cricket – 10am start and 90 overs in a day (still 4 days)

The tournament can be played concurrently with The Hundred and must be in June, July, August.

Critically the tournament must also mirror a single test match series of 5 or 4 tests. To ensure our best players are playing first class cricket before and during that series allowing the Test team to select in form players and to send players not playing back into the tournament. 

This format will create interest and sponsorship, Sky have been a huge support and must be given that chance to be the main coverage provider but like The Hundred each game should have terrestrial highlights shown soon after play ends.

Embrace change and create an elite competition for us to proud of, and to help resurrect our test cricket.

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