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Sir Andrew Strauss’ English men’s cricket review proposes overhaul with six-team County

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Former England captain Andrew Strauss says his reforms to county cricket will improve the standards of the sport

Sir Andrew Strauss’ high-performance review into English cricket has proposed a major domestic overhaul, featuring a six-team top division in the County Championship, a knock-out 50-over competition and a slimmed down schedule for all teams and players.

The review, which has been led by the former England captain and endorsed by the ECB, includes 17 recommendations in total for men’s cricket and Strauss says they can help England be the “world’s best team across all formats within five years, for a sustained period of time”.

The most eye-catching proposals regard a domestic reform.

The report recommends a six-team top County Championship division, with two conferences below that also of six teams vying for one promotion place. There is also a drop in matches, from 14 to 10, while the schedule is set for May to September to allow more cricket in the best conditions.

There are plans for the One-Day Cup to be played entirely in April, with six rounds and a significant knock-out element, while the T20 Blast would be from May to July with a focus on Thursday-to-Sunday “prime slots”.

The Hundred is set to remain in August.

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Speaking in August, Sir Andrew Strauss and Michael Atherton discuss England’s domestic cricket structure and the challenges it presents as Strauss heads up the ECB’s high performance review

The recommendations relating to the domestic structure are for 2024 at the earliest, and require approval from two-thirds of the First-Class Counties (FCC) – meaning 12 out of the 18 must vote in support.

“The current schedule is not working in the way it should,” Strauss told Sky Sports News. “No solution works for everybody. It’s one big Rubix cube and I think this is the best solution for English cricket moving forward.

"It answers some of the fundamental issues that have prevented England achieving [sustained success] in the past.”

Strauss, also previously ECB director of cricket, said a six-team top division would lead to a “higher standard”.

“It means the quality of player is going to be higher, the quality of cricket is going to be higher,” he explained. “It reduces the gap between domestic cricket and international cricket. And there’s slightly less cricket, so more time for rest and repair.”

Asked if he was confident the FCCs would approve, he said: “I hope so. These are a package of recommendations where if they work together, they complement each other brilliantly.”

The high-performance proposals in full | Strauss: ‘No easy answers… but changes needed for sustained success’

Strauss’ panel of experts for the review, established following last winter’s Ashes defeat in Australia, includes Sir Dave Brailsford, Dan Ashworth and current managing director of England men’s cricket Rob Key, and the report published on Thursday aims for a “thriving domestic game” and for “England teams that inspire by the way they win.”

The review highlights England’s lack of success overseas compared to at home in international cricket, and recommends the pilot use of the Kookaburra ball in domestic first-class cricket to help players.

There is also a proposal for an overseas pre-season ‘North vs South’ competition, and improved access to overseas warm weather training facilities.

The high-performance review’s 17 recommendationsHigh-performance requirementRecommendationFocus and alignment on high performance across the game1. Create accountability for men’s high performance2. Improve our shared understanding of ‘What It Takes To Win’3. Foster a high-performance community4. Develop skills and diversity in performance leadership roles5. Reward performance impactPlayers equipped to be successful in all formats, around the world6. Challenge our bowlers to develop their global skills7. Give players access to experiences overseas8. Provide earlier international benchmarking9. Refocus the LionsA thriving domestic game that is best for counties, players, fans and England Men’s teams10. Produce a coherent domestic schedule11. Upgrade the standard and intensity of our competitions12. Incentivise higher quality pitches13. Provide opportunities for talent and reward counties for developmentEngland teams that inspire by the way they win14. Sustain an exciting ‘shop window’ for the game15. Enable England players to better manage workloads16. Improve physical and psychological resilience17. Schedule international matches to allow players to play their best cricket, more often

It is within the ECB’s remit to implement 15 of the 17 recommendations, with the other two relating to the aforementioned domestic structure.

“I am delighted that we are today able to publish the report, which sets out the fundamental changes that we believe are needed to achieve sustained success for our England Men’s team and to enable the men’s domestic game to evolve in the face of a rapidly-changing environment for cricket globally,” said Strauss.

“The game must be united if we are to achieve those ambitions and we must be open-minded to change. The most consistent message we have received, from players to fans and coaches, was that the status quo is not an option.

"I encourage people to consider our proposals as a package, and I welcome the opportunity for informed debate on the recommended changes to the men’s domestic structure.

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"There are no easy answers on the men’s domestic structure. The recommendations have prioritised a more coherent schedule which is more manageable for overworked players, coaches and groundstaff while providing the quality and quantity of cricket that fans want to watch and which meets our high-performance objectives.

"That includes playing first-class cricket in each month from May until September, increasing the standard and intensity of the LV= Insurance County Championship and ensuring more opportunities for the best players to play across all domestic competitions.”

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