Andrew Strauss, ECB, England, 100-ball format
Andrew Strauss, ECB director of cricket, announced this idea earlier in this month © Getty Images

Plans to launch a brand new 100 balls per side English county competition were thrown into doubt on Wednesday by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

It announced the creation of a “working group giving fresh thought to refining the structure of men’s county cricket that has been agreed for 2020”.

Only last week the ECB revealed its intention to establish an eight-team city-based 100 balls per side tournament to start in 2020, despite having previously indicated it would be another Twenty20 event in addition to the existing ‘Blast’ featuring all 18 first-class counties.

England captain Joe Root said it could attract a new audience to Test cricket but his predecessor as skipper, Alastair Cook, believes Tests need to be protected.

100-ball tournament welcomed, but ECB too late to introduce the concept, says David Gower
100-ball tournament welcomed, but ECB too late to introduce the concept, says David Gower

David Gower, another ex-England captain. suggested Wednesday the 100-ball plan was “going to be 12 years out of date before it starts”.

Meanwhile England’s Professional Cricketers’ Association issued a statement Wednesday voicing its “major concern” around the “lack of information and clarity regarding the new tournament”.

Amid all the furore, the ECB said it would set up a working group chaired by Leicestershire chief executive Wasim Khan.

The group’s members will also include, among others, ECB England director of cricket Andrew Strauss, three county directors of cricket, as well as PCA representatives, with a report to be submitted later in the English season.

Gordon Hollins, the ECB’s chief operating officer, explaining why the group had been formed, said: “A number of subjects and proposals have been raised in various forums over the last few weeks and months, such as…the question of what other cricket should be played during the new ECB tournament later in the summer of 2020.”

He added: “In striving to reach a new audience, we must not neglect county cricket, nor its great tradition.”

Strauss, himself a former England captain, came under fire for saying in a radio interview last week that the 100-ball tournament was aimed at “mums and kids”, with some female cricket followers resenting the implication that women do not understand the game’s existing formats.

Wednesday’s ECB statement made no mention, however, of whether plans for a women’s 100-ball tournament to replace the existing Twenty20 Super League were also under review.

There are fears that with Twenty20 now a central part of the women’s game worldwide, abandoning the Super League will leave England with a huge chasm between domestic and elite female cricket.