Domestic cricket season delayed until at least August 1 due to coronavirus pandemic
ECB to be presented with options for shortened season, including proposal for a limited number of supporters to attend games while strictly adhering to social-distancing measures
Last Updated: 29/05/20 8:24am
The domestic cricket season has been delayed until August 1 at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ECB has announced.
The ECB still hopes to stage domestic men's and women's cricket across England and Wales this summer but specifics remain subject to UK governmental advice.
A number of options for domestic play in a shortened season will be presented to the ECB in June by the Professional Game Group (PGG), including regional games, behind-closed doors fixtures and for a limited number of supporters to attend games while adhering strictly to social-distancing measures.
The ECB will take "learnings" from England men's players return to training, as well as any international matches played behind closed doors, with England hopeful of playing a three-Test series against West Indies in bio-secure environments from July 8.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: "Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level. Planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play.
"Whilst traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field.
"That can only happen, though, when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in the game is our key priority.
"We have learned a lot and continue to learn about the safety protocols that would need to be in place to stage international cricket behind closed doors in this environment and those protocols will also need to apply to the domestic game."
Speaking on Sky Sports' The Cricket Show - which you can download as a podcast here - Lancashire seamer Graham Onions said he was "hopeful" there could still be some meaningful county cricket played this summer.
"I understand that the priorities are international cricket and white-ball cricket - with regards to the Vitality Blast," said Onions, 37. "It is very important to get cricket on Sky, get people at home watching the game again and loving it.
"I am hopeful that if they prolong the season, if the weather is okay, I might get a few red-ball [county] overs in. But we don't know.
"I'm absolutely desperate. And, someone like myself, who has had a year, or a good few months, off, there's no reason why we can't be fresh and ready to go when the season starts - or even next year."
Meanwhile, the recreational game remains suspended until further notice, except for the use of outdoor cricket facilities to undertake exercise, though the ECB is seeking to discuss a potential earlier return of junior cricket.
"Across the recreational game it has been heart-warming to hear of clubs where players have returned to the nets," added Harrison.
"As children start returning to school in the coming weeks, we look forward to exploring how those guidelines and learnings can be deployed for cricket. This can then see the recreational game continue its phased return as soon as we have Government approval."