Several counties have made short-term signings to plug gaps in their squads that have been created by a combination of a jam-packed domestic schedule and injuries that have followed as a consequence, as well as England’s simultaneous Test and ODI series.
Sixteen of the 18 counties were involved in the eight T20 Blast games on Friday night, with Surrey and Northamptonshire playing their most recent games on Thursday instead. There are a further eight fixtures in the County Championship starting on Sunday, with Essex and Northants the only two teams not involved.
The schedule is a result of a demand for a greater number of Championship fixtures to be played in the summer months, but has reduced many county’s squads to their bare bones. The issue has been exacerbated by the loss of 25 players to England duty – the 11 who are playing against New Zealand in the second Test at Trent Bridge, plus 14 who will fly to Amsterdam on Tuesday morning ahead of a three-match ODI series against the Netherlands.
Lancashire are among the worst-affected sides, with Luke Wood, Liam Livingstone, Phil Salt and James Anderson on England duty, Hasan Ali returning to Pakistan and Saqib Mahmood and Jack Blatherwick both injured.
While counties have pushed for a greater proportion of Championship games to be played in mid-summer, coaches often note how hard it is for players to switch between increasingly divergent formats of the game.
“It’s always tough as a player, swapping formats,” Richard Johnson, Middlesex’s head coach, told the club’s YouTube channel. “Back when we used to play, it used to be a red-ball game and then a 50-over game straight after, but the crossover wasn’t too bad whereas now, with Championship cricket and T20, they’re the extremes of our sport.
“It can be quite taxing and quite hard work – especially for the batters – to get back into that red-ball mode.” With another round of Blast games following on Friday, they will have to get used to making the switch.