Levelling up or dumbing down? Which way for the Royal London Cup?

With one day cricket seeming to be the main constituent of live cricket at the moment and has seemed so for longer than I care to remember, it does draw to a conclusion (50 over-wise) in the next week or so and for me with today’s visit to Chelmsford to witness Essex v Sussex. Essex need to force a win to stand a chance of progressing to ‘finals week’ – such is the denouement of the tournament!

With stars of the game being called into the national squad or into the T20-lite thrash, there always was a risk that this cup would dumb down – in fact, the ECB (just like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth) claimed that it would become a development tournament for better things.

Sussex have lost 12 of their squad, Essex two – so that doesn’t seem fair – either to spectators or sponsors – as they face up. Luckily only one match (so far) has succumbed to issues from the pandemic but it has never been too far from the surface.

In parts – so far as I’m drafting this in the innings break – this has been just what the ECB intended. Two youngsters from Essex – Rymmel and Khushi – have both rescued the innings and guided it towards safety. Losing both Cook and Westley for 50, in next to no time, they then added over 100 runs; both got out when established (inexperience showed) but a robust 50 from Wheater saw Essex to 321/8.

Youngsters showing how it’s done!

It will be interesting to see how this green top dries out in the sun and wind and how much purchase Harmer can gain. His doubting the umpire who gave him out leg before may not have the umpire super-disposed to Simon’s wiles! But we shall see.

At times the Sussex bowling looked to be holding its own but again inexperience showed and it was more lambs to the slaughter than it should have been. Sussex only have two well-known players (Wiese and Head) and of international standard.

Plon sprinkling magic dust for a boundary?

As time moved on, the Sussex innings, as expected, never got going although 38 from Travis Head (last seen in these blogs smashing NSW bowlers all over the Adelaide Oval in 2019) brought some hope but the challenge was just too much for a young and inexperienced Sussex who succumbed with under 100 needed!

One thing you can always rely on Sussex for…is hairstyles!

Look closely for the two-tone look!
Wiese has gone for the lockdown hairstyle!

But getting back to the competition as a whole…the format works; four home and away games each; plentiful crowds; the concept of a ‘finals’ week needs tweaking but introducing or giving debuts to 102 new players so far (that’s about six per county) is a significant level of ‘development’ being introduced.

How about limiting the number of ‘development’ players (ok, so we’re going to need a definition – say, players with less than 20 50-over matches) to provide a better balance than what we’ve seen this season? Or limiting ‘experienced’ players?

The drive for this will come when the sponsorship is due for renewal – but with limited (if not zero) media coverage or interest, who would want to bid?

That’s for the future – so far, the idea is beginning to work but the pressures of the fixture list and so many competitions and formats lead me to think, its days could be numbered.

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