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BBC radio county commentator David Townsend says more Championship matches in June and July is a big improvement to the summer fixture list
We wanted to like it, we always do, and we were hoping the ECB might get something right this year. Law of averages, perhaps? And, to be fair, the 2019 county schedule is much, much better than its predecessor.
More Championship matches in June and July is a big improvement, as is a meaty run of 10 weeks when the focus is purely on four-day cricket (albeit at the same time as the World Cup) and fixtures at ‘new’ outgrounds.
But... can anyone please explain why it takes 44 days to play the 14 group matches of the Vitality Blast (plus one Championship round in the middle)? I see a forest of hands go up over there in the sports science section and mutterings about ‘travel’, ‘recovery times’ and ‘red zones’...
"Explain how it’s possible for Major League Baseball teams to play 39 games in 44 days"
Now I have no problem with the invention of a ‘science’ that enables the thick but athletic sons and daughters of middle-class parents to accumulate as much student debt as their peers, but not when it comes to messing with the cricket season. Bowlers need to bowl. Bowlers get strong by bowling and no one is going to convince me that the poor darlings couldn’t get through 16 overs a week, if pressed.
That’s right: four games a week. Oooh, er... Two at home: one midweek or Friday-night boozefest to please the bank manager, one weekend afternoon jolly for mums and kids. Two away. In fact, let’s increase the group games to 16, as the counties want, and still have the whole lot thing done and dusted in 30 days, mostly in July before the Premier League footy.
The sports science section are restless again. OK you lot, put away your graphs for a minute and explain how it’s possible for Major League Baseball teams to play 39 games in 44 days without the Red Sox changing their name to the Red Zones?
Could the T20 Blast be shortened?
Next, why does it require 16 rounds (17 if you count Gloucestershire’s one-off against Worcestershire at Cheltenham) to play 14 Championship matches? Why don’t all 18 counties feature in every round? Only 12 teams playing the first round on April 5 is a shocker. What are the other six doing? Why should they escape the hand-warmers and long johns?
Please don’t tell me this is to fit in university games. Just don’t go there. And if the tourists want decent opposition for warm-up games, let them play against the best young players on the fringes of the England team. You could even create an identity around such a side; name them after a jungle beast, or some such.
So, 14 rounds for the 14 matches saves two weeks, plus the week we’ve saved by playing the Blast in a compact block means the season could start in the second half of April and finish earlier.
One more little tweak for next year, if anyone from the ECB has got this far. Start all Championship games on a Sunday, to let people with weekday jobs know that there are at least 14 occasions when they can enjoy a leisurely day of cricket with family and friends without asking the boss. The members would like that. Yes, you know, the members? The people who already like the game and want to watch it.
This article first appeared in the January edition of The Cricketer - click HERE for subscriptions