England v West Indies Test series officially postponed

ECB logo (Twitter)
ECB logo (Twitter)

Cricket chiefs announced on Friday that no professional cricket would be played in England and Wales until July at the earliest as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked fresh havoc on the international sporting calendar.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said attempts would be made to reschedule international fixtures in the period from July until the end of September, including the West Indies Test tour of England.

Global cricket is at a standstill as a result of Covid19, with stark warnings issued over the damaging economic fallout.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said the plan was to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the English season to give the best chance of play.

The West Indies tour, including three Tests, had been due to start on 4 June.

A women's series between England and India, comprising one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches, was scheduled for later in that month.

Before that the County Championship had been due to begin two weeks ago, on 12 April.

"There will be no cricket unless it's safe to play," said Harrison. "Our schedule will only go ahead if government guidance permits.

"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."

Under the plans, nine rounds of fixtures will be lost in the four-day County Championship season, but time slots for red-ball and white-ball cricket will remain in a revised schedule.

The lucrative Twenty20 Blast will be pushed as late in the season as possible. All matches previously scheduled in June will be moved later in the season.

England are also scheduled to play Twenty20 and one-day games at home to Australia in July, with three Tests and three Twenty20s against Pakistan in August and September.

Three one-dayers against Ireland are listed for later in September, with the ECB having previously said they were prepared to field England Test and limited-overs teams at the same time in order to get as many games played as possible.

But any matches that do go ahead may well be behind closed doors, with Harrison telling the BBC on Thursday the ECB were "starting to get comfortable with the idea that there won't be crowds this summer".

"If you talk about the measures the (British) government has got in place through this lockdown... probably the last lever the government is likely to pull is the one around mass gatherings and that is obviously something for us that impacts the ability to put cricket fans into stadia."

England's Professional Cricketers' Association backed the ongoing delay, with chairman Daryl Mitchell saying they welcomed "the steps taken to protect the players and the game at this time".

Meanwhile the ECB will discuss the future of the inaugural Hundred competition again next week, with the tournament meant to start in July.

A new 100-balls-per-side format, to be played by eight franchises rather than English cricket's established 18 first-class counties, the ECB believe the Hundred will attract a new audience vital to safeguarding English cricket's future.

The ECB late last month announced £61 million aid package in response to the "once in a generation" challenge of the coronavirus outbreak.

Problems for the English game are reflected globally.

South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka set for June was officially called off earlier this week with no new date set and the world's richest cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League, has been indefinitely suspended.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts warned this week that the organisation could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if this year's Test tour by India was scrapped.

But cricket chiefs said they were still making plans for this year's Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, due to start in October.

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