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County cricket campaign given green light to start in August

THE county cricket season finally has a date to start, although it is still to be decided which formats and competitions will be played when the action begins on August 1.

The 18 first-class counties will debate the structure of the domestic season early next month after the green light was given by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The season’s structure — with only the inaugural edition of The Hundred scrapped from this year’s calendar so far — will top the meeting’s agenda after which a new fixture schedule is set to be published.

The start of the county season has been on hold since April due to the coronavirus pandemic, but England will return to action with a three-Test series against the West Indies, starting on July 8.

Health and safety remains the prime concern of the ECB, which has approved the return to training of first-class county players this week.

‘It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men’s domestic season for August 1,’ said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured). ‘The safety of our players, staff and officials has been the first priority.’

Professional Cricketers Association chairman Daryl Mitchell welcomed the announcement but said: ‘No player should be required to return to work if they do not feel comfortable due to any underlying health issues or other factors.’

Harrison also said the ECB was ‘unwavering’ in its commitment to women’s domestic cricket.

A total of 24 England players have begun training for a potential tri-series against India and South Africa in September, while a further 25 last week received regional retainers.

Harrison added: ‘Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing.

‘Our strong preference is the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens.’