ECB confirms Northants' season won't start until July at the earliest

It has been confirmed that Northants will not be back in action until at least July 1, with ECB boss Tom Harrison making it clear 'there will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play'.
The fixture boards at the County Ground are going to stay blank for some time yetThe fixture boards at the County Ground are going to stay blank for some time yet
The fixture boards at the County Ground are going to stay blank for some time yet

The England & Wales Cricket Board issued a statement on Friday morning, stating that no professional cricket will be played until July at the earliest due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Domestic and international cricket had originally been suspended until the end of May, in the hope that the Vitality T20 Blast could start on time in June.

That will now not be the case, but the ECB confirmed that if it is possible, then the Blast, which is so crucial to Northants and other clubs' finances, will still be played, stating it will be 'pushed as late in the season as possible '.

The gates will be staying locked at the County Ground until at least JulyThe gates will be staying locked at the County Ground until at least July
The gates will be staying locked at the County Ground until at least July

The decision means the first nine of the scheduled 14 rounds of the County Championship have been postponed, and although the ECB states that blocks will be reserved for red ball cricket in a revised schedule to be drawn up, it seems highly unlikely that competition will be staged.

There also has to be serious doubts about whether The Hundred will launch as planned this summer, with the ECB confirming they are meeting to discuss what will happen to the new competition next Wednesday.

That in turn, places serious doubt over whether or not the 50-over Royal London One Day Cup, which was due to run concurrently with The Hundred, will be played.

It is now hoped that England's two scheduled Test series against West Indies and India, as well as the one-day series against the latter, will be played between July and September.

ECB chief executive Tom HarrisonECB chief executive Tom Harrison
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “Our role as a national governing body during a crisis of this scale requires us to carefully plan alongside cricket’s stakeholders and supporters to attempt to overcome COVID-19’s impact on this season.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“I want to thank everyone involved in this complex and sensitive work. There have clearly never been times like this and my colleagues at the ECB and across the game have been exemplary in this period.

"It has been refreshing, but not surprising, to see how cricket has come together.”

The statement read: "The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has today agreed that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least 1 July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The season remains subject to ongoing advice from government and health experts, and continued consultation with all broadcast partners to determine the optimum way to fulfil fixtures both domestically and internationally."

The bullet points of the statement are:

Professional cricket will not be played in England and Wales until at least 1 July

Nine rounds of fixtures will be lost in the County Championship season, but blocks for red-ball cricket and white-ball cricket will be held in a revised schedule

The Vitality Blast will be pushed as late in the season as possible to give it the best opportunity of being staged. All matches previously scheduled in June will be moved later in the season

International cricket, featuring England men’s and women’s teams, will look to be scheduled from July until the end of September, with the West Indies Test Series and the whole women’s series against India (Vitality IT20s and Royal London ODIs) both moving from their original slots

An additional Board meeting will be scheduled next Wednesday on The Hundred, following a request to dedicate a further session to the competition