The England and Wales Cricket Board has been forced to issue a further delay to the start of the season but a decision over whether to mothball The Hundred for 12 months has been pushed back to next week.
In a statement issued on Friday morning, following a board meeting the evening before, the ECB confirmed that no professional matches will take place before 1 July due to the Covid-19 pandemic as they continue to wait for a green light from the government.
The news means that England’s Test series against West Indies in June is being pushed back to later in the northern hemisphere summer – provided cricket can actually be staged at all – so too the T20 Blast that is considered vital to the 18 first-class counties.
This is the second time the ECB has put the start date back – having initially ruled out any cricket before 28 May – but while there are dedicated blocks for red-ball cricket in the draft schedules for a reduced season, there are no guarantees that the County Championship can take place given the first nine rounds are now wiped out.
The ECB was also expected to confirm a 12-month postponement to The Hundred – its new 100-ball tournament featuring eight invented domestic teams – but this call has instead been kicked on to a dedicated board meeting on the subject next Wednesday.
Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said: “As much as we remain hopeful that we can deliver some cricket this summer, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and our priority – over and above the playing of professional sport – will be to protect the vulnerable, key workers and society as a whole over.
“That’s why, simply put, there will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play. Our schedule will only go ahead if Government guidance permits.”
To this end the ECB also confirmed that the recreational cricket season remains on hold “until further notice”. As regards major match days, the governing body continues to explore “bio-secure” conditions that could allow cricket to be played behind closed doors.
Harrison added: “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. The guidance we receive from Westminster will help us shape how we deliver this.
“Our plan is to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the season to give the best chance of play. The Vitality Blast will also now occupy the latest possible season slot to offer as much time as possible to play a County short-form competition.”