The Hundred – the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new city-based tournament – has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 100-ball competition, involving eight teams in separate men’s and women’s tournaments, was due to begin on 17 July and end on 15 August.
An England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) meeting on Wednesday concluded it was not possible for The Hundred to be staged this year.
“Of course today’s decision is tinged with disappointment but we do recognise the country is going through something unprecedented,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison told BBC Sport.
“All sectors of society are redeploying their thinking to how we help the country get out of this, rather than fulfilling the ambitions we might have for our certain sports.
“In our case, the sacrifices we are making at the moment seem very small in comparison to what is happening in the big picture.”
The ECB had previously extended the shutdown on cricket in England and Wales until at least 1 July.
If and when the 2020 season does begin, the national governing body has already stated it will focus on delivering men’s and women’s internationals, as well as domestic first-class and limited-overs competitions, in the period between July and the end of September.
However, it seems likely the majority of cricket would have to be played behind closed doors, contradicting the stated aim of The Hundred in attracting a new audience to the game.
The complexities of planning in a time of social distancing, travel restrictions that would potentially affect players and coaches from overseas, and significant furloughing of staff across 20 host venues, also contributed to the decision to postpone.
Harrison added the intention will be to deliver The Hundred as it was planned this year, but said there are “decisions” to be made on whether all players remain with the teams they were drafted to.
Complications are most likely to come with overseas players who were available in 2020 but will not be next year, and the ECB is working with the Professional Cricketers’ Association and other key stakeholders with regard to player selection and retention for 2021.
The 18 first-class counties were due to each receive £1.3m from The Hundred, money which the ECB said in March had begun to be paid.
Players involved in the tournament were also set to earn up to £125,000, with equal prize money for men and women.
With regard to what counties and players will ultimately get, Harrison said “discussions are under way”.
“The contracts contemplate situations like this, obviously not the exact situation but we do have the ability to have those discussions through what is written down in the contracts,” he said.
“We have got a big exercise across this whole summer about how we deal with the situation in cricket. It is not limited to The Hundred.
“We are doing everything we can to keep the lights on in counties, who in a lot of examples are under pressure anyway.”
In relation to the impact on the women’s game – the Twenty20 Kia Super League was scrapped to make way for The Hundred – Harrison added: “There is no dilution on our commitment to women’s cricket.
“We have a real opportunity to build on the World Cup success in 2017 and the Kia Super League’s success. None of that is going to change with the postponement of the Hundred.”
Harrison has previously spoke of the “very significant financial problem” the game in England and Wales is facing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, he again reiterated his support for The Hundred, stating it will be a “profit-making venture”.
“In no way, in the opinion of the ECB board or most people around the game, does it dilute the impact or importance of it,” he said.
“This is a competition that is designed not only to become a commercial powerhouse but grow the audience of cricket around the country for young people, for diverse communities and build on what we have with cricket in this country.”
More than 180,000 tickets were sold for matches scheduled in 2020, all of which will be refunded. Anyone who bought tickets and those signed up to the competition’s website will be notified of how to purchase tickets for 2021.
England internationals Joe Root and Moeen Ali both said on Wednesday postponing this year’s competition would be the right thing to do.
Now, an important year in 2021 for English cricket takes on even greater significance.
The Hundred will be launched in the same home summer as a high-profile Test series against India, with a T20 World Cup in India in the autumn followed by a bid to regain the Ashes in Australia.
England could also be involved in the final of the World Test Championship, which is currently due to be held at Lord’s in June 2021.
‘It wouldn’t have been right to play behind closed doors’
Analysis by Jonathan Agnew, BBC cricket correspondent
It’s bad news, but it’s not unexpected.
The ECB has pinned an awful lot of hope and money on The Hundred and it just doesn’t seem to be the sort of competition you can play behind closed doors. It goes against the whole notion of the tournament.
The board sees this tournament as being very important in connecting to a new audience so to lock them out would not make a lot of sense.
The women’s game has been rather hit by this because their T20 tournament was cancelled in order to get them involved in The Hundred.
Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India are coming to England next year – India to play five Tests.
That is a lot of cricket and will possibly distract the attention of the very people The Hundred was supposed to be really attracting.