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ECB suspension means Saracens Hertfordshire League and Tees Herts & Essex Border League cricket seasons delayed until at least July

Cricket league officials are hoping the sound of leather on willow will be heard in July after the start of the new season was delayed.

The inaugural Tees Herts & Essex Border League was due to get under way this Saturday (May 2) while the opening round in the Saracens Hertfordshire League was scheduled to begin next Saturday (May 9).

But the ECB has suspended all forms of recreational cricket due to the coronavirus pandemic, including training and pre-season friendlies.

It means league fixtures are set to be reduced when, and if, the season can get going while relegation and promotion could be shelved.

The ECB has already agreed that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least July 1 and the "season remains subject to ongoing advice from government and health experts, and continued consultation with all broadcast partners to determine the optimum way to fulfil fixtures both domestically and internationally".

Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth's first teams were both hoping to get their respective Championship and Division One campaigns up and running in the Saracens League, with their second XIs also competing in the lower echelons.

There will be no play at Bishop's Stortford's Cricketfield Lane or the other cricket grounds in the area until the ECB lifts its suspension. Picture: Vikki Lince
There will be no play at Bishop's Stortford's Cricketfield Lane or the other cricket grounds in the area until the ECB lifts its suspension. Picture: Vikki Lince

A Saracens League statement said: "Since the Government have yet to indicate how and when the lockdown may be loosened, we can only speculate on what kind of season we may have at the moment.

"However, we do think it is important to, at least, have an exit strategy and prepare for what will inevitably be a truncated season so that all clubs will know what sort of cricket we may be playing.

"First of all, we have decided that there will be no cricket until at least July 11, giving us no more than half a season. A questionnaire is being sent to all club representatives to complete as we would like your club's views before we formulate our plans.

"In the ECB conference calls, all but one league said that there would be no promotion or relegation this season.

"With self-isolation, social distancing, few if any overseas players, weather interruptions and whatever restrictions the Government leave in place, availability will be compromised and therefore the vast majority of leagues thought it would be unfair with a shorter season and those constraints for clubs to be relegated or promoted."

The Saracens League statement added there could be points awarded to clubs based on where they finish to give them a small head start for the 2021 season in order to give teams something to play for, or champions could be excused a membership fee for next season.

Tees Herts & Essex Border League chairman David Brown, who is also Stansted Hall & Elsenham chairman, and the 36 teams from 31 member clubs must also wait to see if the season can get up and running.

The league was formed after the old Herts & Essex Cricket League folded in November after 26 years after the majority of clubs opted to break away in order to reduce travelling.

"The Tees Herts & Essex Border League is working with the Essex Cricket Adult Partnership Group on when recreational cricket will resume," said Brown.

"All 29 leagues in Essex will start playing on the weekend of July 4-5 at the earliest. This date very much depends upon guidance from the Government and ECB."

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