Cricket

County Championship toss no longer mandatory

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English cricket will break with tradition in 2016 after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a new rule which will see the forsaking of the toss.

In both tiers of next season's County Championship, the visiting captain will be given the option of bowling first which, if he chooses to take, will see the toss rendered unnecessary.

A coin will only be spun - as has been cricket's tradition for over a hundred years - if the visiting captain rejects the chance to bowl first.

The proposal was passed - on the basis of a one-year trial - at an ECB board meeting at Lord's on Thursday and cricket committee head Peter Wright said the move came about partly as a result of concerns about the development of English spinners.

Rather than home teams now winning the toss and unleashing a seam-heavy attack on a pitch which makes batting hazardous, the away captain will now have the option to intervene.

"It isn't all about spin," said Wright. "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 per cent 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."

The recommendation came from the ECB's cricket committee, which includes the like of chief executive Tom Harrison, England team director Andrew Strauss and former coach Andy Flower.

"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 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."

Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond said on Wednesday that he was enthused by the move, but Andrew Gale, captain of County Champions Yorkshire, tweeted to say: "So no coin toss next year if away team doesn't want it?! absolute madness. 2018, batters aren't allowed pads either and bowlers can only come off 5 steps!!"

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