Domestic season delayed until 1 August because of coronavirus

Essex are the defending county champions

The England and Wales Cricket Board has extended the shutdown on domestic cricket until at least 1 August.

The season, due to start on 12 April, was postponed until 28 May and then 1 July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

England are set to begin a three-Test series against West Indies on 8 July.

Options for playing domestic first-class and limited-overs competitions later in the summer will be presented to the ECB in June.

The extension of the shutdown means 10 rounds of County Championship matches will have been lost.

In addition, the period up to 1 August would also have included the group stage of the T20 Blast and the start of the One-Day Cup.

The inaugural season of The Hundred – due to begin in July – was in April postponed until 2021.

The ECB has said it would try to create windows for red-ball and white-ball competitions, and options will be drawn up by its Professional Game Group (PGG).

These include counties being split into regional groups and matches being played behind closed doors or in front of limited crowds with social distancing measures in place.

Surrey and Northants have said they hope to stage matches in front of reduced crowds this summer.

The possibility of streaming non-televised matches online is also being explored.

Chief executive Tom Harrison said the ECB is “hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season”.

He added: “Whilst traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field.”

Amateur cricket remains suspended until further notice, although net sessions are permitted if certain protocols are adhered to.

The ECB said any update on the recreational game could include an earlier return for junior cricket.

“As children start returning to school in the coming weeks, we look forward to exploring how those guidelines and learnings can be deployed for cricket,” said Harrison.

“This can then see the recreational game continue its phased return as soon as we have government approval.”

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