Rest In Peace County Cricket

I feel the need to write this for therapeutic reasons. I am bereft, lost and utterly dejected. There are some that will say that I am over-reacting, believe me I hope I am, but I write as I feel and at present I cannot escape the feeling that my beloved County Championship has been dealt a death blow. I accept this may appear crass at a time when many, many people are still dealing with family bereavement and to those of you so affected I both apologise and send my sincere condolences. But this is a blog about Somerset Cricket, a county where red-ball cricket and our pursuit of a first evert tile in that competition has a religious zeal and as I write this I wonder if the Championship can survive the latest attack on it by English cricketing hierarchy.

Somerset v Leicestershire, County Championship Group 2, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, July 3rd to 7th 2021, Lunch Day Three, Somerset 461-9 Declared (Conway 88, Van der Merwe 76, de Lange 75, Davey 75*, Davies 65) lead Leicestershire 175-4 by 286 runs

The events at Taunton this morning were completely overshadowed, I go so far as to say, rendered irrelevant by the acts of the ECB who, as a result of a COVID outbreak in the England squad have ripped the heart out of the County Championship. At best the ECB have disrespected the competition and those who devote their lives to playing in, supporting it and writing and commentating on it. At worst this seems like the opportunity the Board have been waiting for to finish driving the dagger that they created by imposing the franchise model competition that shall not be named deep into the heart of four-day cricket.

This is not simply a case of rabid parochialism, although Somerset have lost their captain in this game and their T20 captain for the remained of the first half of the domestic season. A number of other counties have been similarly affected and arguably may suffer more as a result. 

Nor is it a failure to understand that the financial and commercial imperatives for the ECB dictate that the forthcoming series against Pakistan could possibly have been cancelled. 

But it is a condemnation of a board which has taken the first opportunity to pack the international schedule this summer with visits from as many countries as possible. At a time when the pandemic is still rife and protocols this was a recipe for disaster but the shame is that the price will be paid by the County Championship and the Blast.

The ECB need to understand that County Cricket means so much to so many as evidenced by the droves that have watched via the live streams over the last 11 months. I am sure I am not alone among that mass by feeling as I do. Full credit to Somerset’s players and coaches for producing a morning of commitment as they did in the circumstances, I am pretty sure I couldn’t have done so if I had been in their shoes.

I’m not sure if there will be a post at close of play today, or tomorrow. I hope there is and that James Hildreth’s side will produce an afternoon and evening to reinvigorate me but as I sign off now I wonder, what is the point?