PAUL NEWMAN: Shame on ECB for undermining the brilliant Vitality Blast

PAUL NEWMAN: Shame on the ECB for undermining the brilliant Vitality Blast… they have sought to destroy one of the most successful innovations of the last 20 years, proving cricket is the most self-destructive game

  • The ECB have underlined a competition which has revolutionised county cricket 
  • They have now introduced a shorter and inferior format they hope will catch on
  • Matches will clash with other big ties, with a host of big names are also missing 

Why would you actively seek to destroy one of the most successful innovations of the last 20 years? Why would you completely undermine a competition that has revolutionised county cricket and become more and more popular with each passing year?

For that is what the ECB have done with the Vitality Blast. That is what they have done to the Twenty20 game they introduced to the world but have handled so badly they have now invented a shorter, inferior format in the hope that will catch on instead.

There is no other explanation for this year’s scheduling of what has long since become the most important and lucrative competition for the 18 counties, culminating in this week’s Blast quarter-finals.

The ECB undermined the Vitality Blast, a competition which revolutionised country cricket

First came group games outside of school holidays and at an early point in the season, almost as if the ECB wanted to make it harder for a young audience to attend. 

Now what should be four showpiece quarter-finals this week have been scheduled up against England’s T20s with India, almost guaranteeing they will be completely overshadowed. And, most significantly, devoid of England players.

The first T20 meeting between heavyweights Surrey and Yorkshire should have been a showpiece occasion, the very best of what county cricket can offer. 

The quarter-finals have been diluted, although David Wiley (right) was released by England

But it was diluted by the absence of five Yorkshire players on international duty, resting or, in the case of Adil Rashid, on the Hajj pilgrimage. It would have been worse had David Willey not been released by England at the last minute.

Equally, what should be a big night at Old Trafford on Friday will be lessened by the absence of five England players from the Lancashire line-up facing Essex.

Publicity, at least from the mainstream media, will be negligible. There are no such issues for the Hundred, of course, which will enjoy maximum exposure at the prime time of summer next month, initially given a clear run without England games and with the added benefit of terrestrial television exposure.

We all know how crammed the post-pandemic schedule is, both in the international and domestic game, but that is all the more reason to argue a new format was never a good idea in the first place. 

What should have been four showpiece ties will be overshadowed by the series against India

Certainly not at the expense of something that works. With this week’s undervalued Blast quarter-finals comes confirmation that the Hundred will never be allowed to fail, and damn the consequences for the rest of the game. 

Truly, there has never been a more self-destructive game than cricket, killing the goose that laid the golden egg in the hope another will hatch.

Sadly, it has already cracked.

Confirmation of Moeen Ali’s return to Warwickshire from Worcestershire included a crucial detail.

It is a three-year deal exclusively for white-ball cricket for a player who has apparently just ‘unretired’ from the Test game. You would think if Moeen were serious about playing red-ball cricket for his country again, he would at least turn out in the odd first-class game for his county.

The fact that he probably won’t suggests two things – firstly England’s new brand of cricket is so dynamic there is no need to re-acclimatise to the red ball before playing in a Test.

And secondly, that England almost certainly see Moeen’s Test comeback specifically for this winter’s three-Test tour of Pakistan, when a second and possibly even third spinner will be required. It seems highly unlikely it will extend any longer than that.

Warwickshire confirmed that Moeen Ali has penned a three-year contract with the county

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