There will be a small but significant difference on the first morning of all fixtures in both divisions of next season’s County Championship.
Before the toss, the visiting captain will be offered the opportunity of bowling first. If he declines, the toss will take place as normal. But if he accepts, there will be no toss.
A proposal came from the nine-man Cricket Committee of the England and Wales Cricket Board – of which Worcestershire chief executive David Leatherdale is a member – and the decision was made at a full Board meeting at Lord’s on Thursday.
It will be introduced as a one-season trial, to be reviewed in the autumn of 2016.
Here Peter Wright, the chairman of the Cricket Committee, explains the rationale.
Aim – To encourage counties to provide better pitches for four-day cricket
“It isn’t all about spin,” said Wright, who is also the Nottinghamshire chairman. “There has been concern for some years about some Championship pitches. But it is fair to say that the plight of spin bowling in this country brought things into focus.
“Figures showing that spinners bowled only 21.5% of the overs in the 2015 Championship were presented to the committee and we have come to the conclusion that the only way to bring spin bowlers more into the game is to provide better pitches for them to bowl on.
“Of course counties want to win matches, and that generally means taking 20 wickets. That has to be a reason we have seen a lot of pitches that start a bit green and damp, and get better as the game goes on, rather than deteriorating to help the spinners.
“But another main function of the County Championship is to develop players for England. We don’t think it has been serving that purpose for spinners.
“By giving the away team the option of bowling first, we hope the home side will be encouraged to produce the best possible four-day pitch. That will be good for cricket in general, and not only for spinners: batsmen should also benefit, from better pitches which will lead to them facing more spin bowling; and if pitches start drier, the ball may scuff up a bit more and produce more reverse swing.”
Why are you trialling this in both divisions of the County Championship?
“We did originally consider introducing this as a trial in one division only but after further discussion and debate today we have decided to extend this to both divisions of the County Championship. We believe this is an innovation which will be watched closely well beyond the County Championship.
“We will then need to assess how successful the trial has been at the end of the 2016 season before deciding whether to continue with this.”
Who made the recommendation?
“Our Cricket Committee possesses a vast range of technical expertise and playing experience,” said Wright.
“We can draw on a wealth of cricketing knowledge both within the domestic First Class game and from people who have extensive experience of the international game.
“We also listen very closely to the views of umpires and groundsmen, too. It’s a decision which has only been made after a great deal of careful thought – and it’s important everyone understands we are not dispensing with the toss altogether.”
The Cricket Committee consisted of: Peter Wright, Alan Fordham (ECB Head of Cricket Operations), Tom Harrison (ECB Chief Executive Officer), Andrew Strauss (Director, England Cricket), Angus Porter (Chief Executive – Professional Cricketers' Association), Rob Key (Kent captain), David Leatherdale (Chief Executive – Worcestershire), Mark Robinson (formerly Sussex’s Cricket Manager – recently appointed head coach of England Women), Steve Garrett (First-Class umpire).
Andy Flower (ECB’s Technical Director of Elite Coaching) also attended at the committee’s invitation.