Cricket news - England's domestic season set to start on August 1

The format to start the season hasn't been decided yet.

The format to start the season hasn't been decided yet.

After 'extensive consultation' with the 18 first-class counties and the Professional Cricketers' Association, the ECB has given the go-ahead for domestic cricket to start from August 1. While the formats that'll be played during the truncated season, as well as the detailed fixtures list, will only be announced in early July, there are plans for both red-ball and white-ball cricket.

As initial steps towards the resumption, the ECB has approved the return to training of men's first-class county players on or before July 1. There's also a dedicated working group that's been set up to oversee all matters pertaining to domestic cricket against the backdrop of COVID-19.

In addition, the ECB reiterated their commitment to the women's game. Last week, the board announced retainers for 25 women cricketers at the domestic level. Now, the ECB has vowed to kickstart their domestic season in some shape or form this year. However, the version that'll be on display could be different to the 'new elite women's domestic structure' that had been envisioned before the pandemic struck.

"It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men's domestic season for 1 August and one which will be welcomed by everyone connected with County Cricket," Tom Harrison, ECB CEO, said. "It follows extensive consultation between the 18 First-Class Counties, the Professionals Cricketers' Association and ECB and has only been achievable thanks to the significant hard work that continues to occur as we prepare for a domestic season unlike any the game has faced before.

"It must be stressed that the safety of our players, staff and officials has been the first priority through all discussions and Government guidance will continue to shape our planning and preparation. Planning for the return of the women's domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women's domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.

"Our strong preference is that the women's new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens. For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.

"Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women's game. In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women's players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020. We will continue to work closely with both the men's and women's domestic game to ensure necessary safety measures are in place to protect the wellbeing of everyone involved."

This concrete start date of August 1 comes after multiple postponements of the domestic calendar. Initially due to start on April 12, it had to be postponed until May 28, then pushed back to July 1 before being further deferred to August.

However, if there are some players who are still not comfortable with the health risks posed by this resumption, there could be an 'opt-in' process in place through which they can withdraw from participation.

"The health of our membership remains our number one priority and no player should be required to return to work if they do not feel comfortable due to any underlying health issues or other factors such as living with vulnerable people. We have pushed for an 'opt in' process with ECB and the counties so players can totally understand the protocols in place to mitigate risks and those who are not yet able to return feel comfortable in not opting in," PCA Chairman Daryl Mitchell said.

Mitchell also commended the ECB for their handling of the situation while taking heart from the board's commitment towards women's cricket.

"I commend the expertise and effort that has been shown by the ECB and the first-class counties to get to this stage. The planning and safety procedures that are being put in place will make the return to professional cricket as safe as it possibly can.

"The commitment to play women's domestic cricket this summer is also very positive. We need to continue the momentum of the women's game so to have an assurance this summer will not be completely lost to domestic players is another step in the right direction."