England’s poor showing at World Cup has rattled officials and ECB is pondering to have a shorter County Championship to bring to fruition its commitment to give greater priority to one-day cricket. A team of ECB executives is conducting a root-and-branch review of the game with a number of eye-catching suggestions, including four-day Test cricket, already contained in the “Strategy Conversation Summary” hatched from an initial powwow. The only way to create space for more limited-overs matches is by reducing championship fixtures. One county chairman said: “The programme of 16 four-day games has been a sacred cow, but there is a growing appetite to change.” David Morgan, the author of the most recent review in 2011-12, recommended a drop to 14 matches. He was overruled, but the 20-over format has continued to grow worldwide since and the leading 50-over players are increasingly coming from Twenty20 rather than the first-class game.
If the ECB wants to introduce an English Premier League to supplement the existing NatWest t20 Blast - possibly with a smaller number of franchise or merged teams - then even a 14-game championship may be too long. One radical option understood to be up for discussion would mean three divisions of seven, with the leading Minor Counties brought in to supplement the existing 18 first-class outfits. This would generate 12 games per county, playing each team in their division home and away, and free about a month for the white-ball game. Serious reform is unlikely to be introduced before 2017.