South African domestic cricket will face a slightly shorter 2020-21 season with a reduction of fixtures for the franchise competition as Cricket South Africa seeks to cut costs following a tough 12 months. The organisation is forecasting losses of millions of Rands after sponsor withdrawal, an inability to sell two editions’ worth of broadcast rights for the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and loss-making incoming tours in the 2018-19 summer and the pinch is being felt in the local game, which depends on CSA finances to operate.
The two-tier system, of six franchise teams and 15 provincial affiliates, will remain in place with fewer matches and discussions on a possible restructure ahead of the 2021-22 season are ongoing while flagship T20 competition, the MSL is likely to continue, but may also see a curtailed fixture list.
CSA, while still under suspended CEO Thabang Moroe, had initially planned to eliminate the franchise set-up for the 2020-21 season and create a domestic system of 12 teams. The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) challenged that motion in court, claiming they were not consulted about the changes and that around 70 players would lose their jobs.
The matter dragged on for several months during which time Moroe was temporarily succeeded by Dr Jacques Faul, who was able to re-engage SACA. On agreement that the domestic structure would be retained for the coming summer, SCA withdrew legal action against CSA and the two parties remain in discussions about the best way to structure domestic cricket.
For the 2020-21 season, the status quo largely remains. The six franchise will play a four-day first-class and fifty-over competition while the provincial teams will play three-day cricket, which will also be classified as first-class for all teams apart from Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and a fifty-over one-day competition.
However, instead of each franchise playing 10 first-class and 10 fifty-over matches per season (home and away games against each of the other five teams) as was the case in previous seasons, they will be divided into two groups of three and will play seven matches each. This will include home and away matches against each of the teams in their own group, for a total of four matches, and only one match against the three teams in the other group.
Both competitions will be decided by a playoff match between the top two teams in each group to decide the title. Previously, the first-class competition trophy was awarded to the team at the top of the points’ table after all 10 rounds of competition, or eight in the case of this season, with the final two rounds suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The reduction of fixtures will enable CSA to save money on transport and accommodation costs, which is particularly important in the case of the first-class competition that has been without a sponsor for two seasons.
The provincial teams remain divided into two groups of eight and seven teams and will play a single round of fixtures. They will also feature in a new 40-over knockout competition which will include the 15 provinces and the South African under-19 side. While there is no T20 competition at the provincial level, CSA will introduce a Super Club T20 competition which will be contested by the top six university teams and three teams from the community cup.
South Africa’s domestic season is expected to start in September and squad and fixture lists are currently being planned. Although all cricket in the country was put on hold for 60 days last week as a response to Covid-19, CSA is hopeful that play will be possible when the summer starts, in about six months’ time. There have already been some significant player signings with Cobras’ quick Thando Ntini moving upcountry to the Titans and white-ball international Lutho Sipamla leaving the Warriors for the Lions. Final squads are expected to be released by the end of the month.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Construction work continues at Lord’s despite COVID-19 outbreak
Construction work on the new Compton and Edrich stands at Lord’s is to continue, despite the UK’s ongoing lockdown in response to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak.
The MCC has extended its closure of the ground until the end of May, as well as cancelling a planned AGM. Chief executive, Guy Lavender, also confirmed in a letter to members that more than half of the club’s staff has been furloughed as part of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
The UK’s lockdown rules mean that all but essential members of the workforce are being encouraged to work from home, but they have not put a halt on construction. The redevelopment of the two stands either side of the Lord’s media centre is due to be completed by May 2021 but would be able to accommodate spectators this summer – although the shape of the fixture list is now very much open to change.
Work at Lord’s, which will increase capacity to 31,000, is being carried out by construction firm ISG and will continue unless government advice changes.
“The construction of the Compton and Edrich stands is continuing for the time being,” Lavender wrote. “At present, ISG wish to continue to work as do their sub-contractors. We have discussed and supported their plans to enable safe working and adherence to government advice.
“This includes two-metre distancing, additional parking and vehicle transportation, enlarged rest areas to maintain separation, proactive management and on-site monitoring.
“This phase of construction is entirely open plan and does not involve enclosed working. Should the government issue instruction for construction to stop, ISG will adhere to this immediately.”
The MCC has also opened up use of 75 parking spaces at Lord’s for staff working at local hospitals, as well as providing storage for the Wellington Hospital, located just to the north of the ground. Surplus food has been provided to City Harvest London, which redistributes to help feed the hungry.
Fees waived as recreational cricket feels coronavirus strain
The ECB has urged county boards to waive affiliation fees for clubs up and down the land.
Despite the ECB announcing that no cricket – recreational or professional – will be played until the end of May at the earliest, several clubs reported attempts to chase up payments of the fees in recent days.
The fees are required from all clubs affiliated to the ECB and historically this process is managed and collected by the local cricket board or league rather than the ECB, with a focus on monitoring the safeguarding procedures that are in place for clubs. They range in value from around £40 to over £100 depending on what is provided by the Cricket Board as part of the payment.
In a conference call to the boards on Wednesday, it is understood the ECB recommended that cricket boards look to support clubs financially in any way they can.
While many clubs will have paid well ahead of the season, thought will also be given to a tiered level of rebate depending on how much cricket is possible in the coming months.
Although the issue is largely symbolic – one club told ESPNcricinfo their fee was just £10 – the move reinforces the ECB’s core message in recent days: everyone in the game, at every level, is in this together.
Last Friday, the ECB confirmed that its age-group programmes – All Stars and Dynamos Cricket – would remain suspended indefinitely.
Clubs were also sent guidance that loan repayments as part of the interest-free loan scheme, which provides capital for development projects, have been suspended until May 2021. That measure forms part of the ECB’s £61 million package to ensure cricket in England and Wales can overcome the biggest challenge it has faced in the modern era.
Former New Zealand batsman Daniel Flynn announces retirement
Daniel Flynn, the former New Zealand and Northern Districts left-hand batsman, has called time on his 16-year-long career, at age 34.
In an international career spanning a little over five years, Flynn played 24 Tests, 20 ODIs, and five T20Is, making a combined 1325 runs, including six half-centuries. He batted almost three hours in the second innings of his debut Test at Lord’s, his 118-ball 29 helping New Zealand salvage a draw. The early days of his international career are also remembered for him walking off Old Trafford with a mouthful of blood and two fewer teeth as a result of a vicious James Anderson bouncer that he copped during the opening day’s play. His last international appearance came in July 2013, during a Test match against South Africa where he made a pair.
Flynn played 135 first-class matches and scored 7815 runs, including 21 centuries, at an average of 35.04. He featured in 100 first-class matches for Northern Districts, leading them in 47 of them, aside from making 88 and a record 104 appearances for them in List A and T20 matches respectively. His 20 first-class hundreds for Northern Districts are the most by any batsman from the side.
Reflecting on his career, Flynn said: “Representing your country is the ultimate for any cricketer; it’s what you dream of as a kid, so to have achieved it is something I look back on with immense satisfaction.
“The people I’ve played alongside throughout my career stand out for me; they’re not just good cricketers, but good people, who I’ve learned plenty from both on and off the field.
“Winning trophies for ND alongside these guys was always special, and those are memories that I will never forget.”
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