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County cricket to return from August 1, but formats remain to be decided

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The ECB has confirmed that the delayed 2020 county season will get underway on August 1. However, there is still no update on the status of the recreational game in England and Wales, despite reports that the government was preparing to give the sport the go-ahead for a return in early July.

As yet, there is no confirmation of which formats will be played in the truncated county season. With the Vitality Blast sure to be restored as the most financially important form of domestic cricket, the first-class counties were recently split 14-4 as to whether to play Championship or 50-over cricket as well, and a revised fixture list will be released following a meeting in early July.

“It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men’s domestic season for 1 August and one which will be welcomed by everyone connected with County Cricket,” said Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive.

“It follows extensive consultation between the 18 First-Class Counties, the Professionals Cricketers’ Association and ECB and has only been achievable thanks to the significant hard work that continues to occur as we prepare for a domestic season unlike any the game has faced before.”

Harrison added that the first priority throughout the discussions had been the “safety of our players, staff and officials”, and that government guidance would “continue to shape our planning and preparation”.

The ECB have also committed to ensuring that some form of women’s domestic cricket is able to take place this summer in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, but added that it “may differ from the planned rollout of the new women’s elite domestic structure”.

ALSO READ: ‘Clubs are desperate for cricket, just to stay alive’ – Mark Wood

Last week, 25 domestic retainers were announced across the eight regions that comprise the new-look women’s domestic scene.

The first season of the Women’s Hundred has already been postponed until 2021, but subject to a final decision on recreational cricket from the UK Government, the Vitality Women’s T20 County Cup could still form part of the 2020 calendar.

“Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly,” said Harrison.

“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens. For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled-out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.

“Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game. In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.

“We will continue to work closely with both the men’s and women’s domestic game to ensure necessary safety measures are in place to protect the wellbeing of everyone involved.”

The ECB remain optimistic of confirming the return of recreational cricket in the near future, in the wake of comments from the prime minister, Boris Johnson, that a cricket ball is a “natural vector of disease”.



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MCC to review art collection amid slavery links of former secretary

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MCC have launched a review into their extensive art collection – the largest cricket-related collection in the world – after removing artwork relating to Ben Aislabie, the first secretary, from public view.

Until recent days, there were two paintings of Aislabie hanging in the pavilion at Lord’s with the club also owning a third painting and a bust.

But while Aislabie’s contribution to the club, as secretary for 20 years, is undeniable, so are his connections with the slave trade. He owned slaves in Antigua and Dominica and was compensated by the British government when slavery was abolished in 1833.

Now, as MCC grapples with its past in a modern perspective, the club has decided to remove the items from public view. It possible they will eventually be displayed in the club’s museum with a full explanation of his past and relevance to the club.

“MCC has the largest collection of cricket-related art in the world, which captures the entire history of the game, including key personalities in the history of the Club and world cricket in general,” the MCC said in a statement. “In relation to Benjamin Aislabie, his artwork has been removed from public display with immediate effect and we will also be reviewing our collection in full.”

ALSO READ: Clare Connor named as MCC’s first female president

The club is also likely to reflect on the appropriateness of having a stand bearing the ‘Warner’ name. While Pelham Warner, the former England captain and MCC president, was born in 1873 about 40 years after the abolition of slavery, he was born, in Trinidad, into a family that had made a fortunate from slavery and plantations.

In a piece published by ESPNcricinfo on June 28, the academic Dr Richard Sargeant asked “how a black person is meant to feel when they go to Lord’s – the so-called home of cricket – and there is a stand named after a man whose family wealth was built on slavery.”

Sargeant also questioned the club’s decision to appoint presidents who had been part of rebel tours to apartheid South Africa. Mike Gatting (2014) and Derek Underwood (2009) have both held the role in relatively recent times.

MCC has modernised relatively quickly in recent years. Despite only voting to allow female members in 1998 – 211 years after the club was founded – the club recently announced the appointment of their first female president. Clare Connor, the former England captain, will succeed Kumar Sangakkara, who became the first non-British president of the club in 2019, in October 2021.

Among other recent contributions, the club funded the MCCU scheme for 16 years – the ECB have just taken ownership of it – and has a charitable arm, the MCC Foundation, which aims to “remove financial barriers to participation and empower young cricketers to reach their full potential.” The club also reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic with a fundraising campaign among members to help feed vulnerable people.

At the club’s AGM last week, it was confirmed that Life Membership would be made available to people outside the MCC waiting list for up to £75,000, in a bid to offset some of the losses expected due to the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure that the £52 million refurbishment of the Compton and Edrich Stands continues uninterrupted.



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Craig Meschede retires aged 28 due to shoulder problem

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Craig Meschede, the Glamorgan allrounder, has been forced to retire due to a shoulder injury at the age of 28. Meschede was diagnosed with Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome last year and took the decision to end his playing career on the advice of specialists.

Meschede said that the syndrome, which can cause pain, tingling and weakness in the arm, had “taken a massive toll physically and mentally”. He underwent months of rehabilitation, in an attempt to regain shoulder strength and mobility, but has now called time on a nine-year career that saw him represent Glamorgan, Somerset and Germany in T20 internationals.

“The last few weeks have been very emotional for me as cricket has played such a big part of my life,” Meschede said. “Saying that, I have to do what’s best for my health and there is life after cricket. The physio and support staff and everyone at Glamorgan have been brilliant throughout this process and I can’t thank them enough.

“The syndrome has taken a massive toll on me physically and mentally and it’s been hard to perform skills at a level I know I’m capable of. I now need to undertake an operation and period of rehabilitation in order to get my quality of life back.

“Playing at Somerset and Glamorgan has presented me with many great opportunities as well as making a number of friends for life. I will always be grateful for the opportunities cricket has provided me. I wish all the players and staff great success in the future and hope the lads can get on and play this year.”

Born in South Africa but educated in Somerset, Meschede came through at Taunton as a hard-hitting allrounder. His maiden first-class wicket was that of Sachin Tendulkar, during a 2011 tour match, but he found his opportunities limited and moved to Glamorgan, initially on loan, in 2015.

At Glamorgan, he scored both of his first-class centuries, as well as taking a maiden five-wicket haul. He helped the club reach T20 Finals Day in 2017, and recorded his career-best T20 score – 77 from 47 balls – the following season, batting in the top three. Meschede also took advantage of his German parentage to be selected for the 2018 T20 World Cup regional qualifier in the Netherlands.

Injury limited his opportunities in 2019, but he made his full T20I debut for Germany in the European regional finals in Guernsey, scoring 179 runs at a strike rate of 155.65 to go with six wickets in five matches.

Glamorgan’s director of cricket, Mark Wallace, said: “It’s always very sad when a player is forced to retire through injury and especially in Craig’s case at an age when many are reaching the peak of their careers.

“Craig’s natural talent and skill always stood out and he had a flair and talent for the game, which made him exciting to watch and play with. Moreover, off the field, Craig was a committed professional and popular member of the squad who always worked hard to give himself and the team the best chance of success.

“I’m sure I speak for everyone at the club in thanking Craig for everything he has done both on and off the pitch during his time here and we wish him well for a bright future outside of the playing field.”





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CSA gets sports-ministry green light to resume training

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Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) return-to-train-and-play plans have been approved by the country’s sports ministry and the organisation will meet on Thursday to plot its course back to action. ESPNcricinfo understands that CSA’s focus will be on getting the national men’s and women’s teams back in action, though franchise and provincial players will continue to wait before they can begin pre-season camps. A new date for the 3TC competition – a format in which three teams will play in the same game – is not expected imminently.

Last week, CSA was forced to postpone the 3TC exhibition event, originally scheduled for June 27, because it had yet to receive the government’s green light to train or play. CSA needed both the sports and health ministry’s permission because it hoped the match would take place at SuperSport Park, in Centurion, a coronavirus hotspot. With infections rising as South Africa heads towards its peak (predicted to occur between July and September), CSA may consider an alternative venue for the fixture. One source said CSA would require players to have at least seven days of training before rescheduling the 3TC match.

This means that for now, CSA’s top priority will be to ensure its national player groups return to organised sessions, especially as they have been out of action for more three months. There has been no cricket in South Africa since March 15, when the group stage of the domestic one-day cup was completed. The playoffs and final did not take place. At the time, South Africa’s men’s team was in India playing a three-match ODI series. After one rained-off fixture, the team returned home. South Africa went into strict lockdown on March 27 which meant the women’s home series against Australia had to be postponed. The women’s team will also not travel to play against West Indies. The men’s team has had its white-ball tour of Sri Lanka, which was due to take place this month, put back and next month’s two-Test, five T20I trip to the Caribbean will, at best, be delayed by several weeks.

South Africa are also hopeful of hosting India for three T20Is in August but have made provision for those fixtures to take place later in the home summer, as far forward as March 2021.

All CSA’s other plans for its national sides will depend on when the ICC makes a decision regarding the T20 World Cup and 2021 Women’s World Cup. The organisation is hopeful of discussing elements of the Future Tours Program at its Thursday meeting.



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