The England and Wales Cricket Board on Thursday announced a further delay to the start of the professional domestic cricket season due to the coronavirus pandemic. There will be no domestic cricket in England until August 1 at the earliest.

But England’s postponed Test series at home against the West Indies could still take place in July as Thursday’s announcement by the ECB does not cover international matches. ECB is considering the use of bio-secure venues and quarantining players with matches likely be staged behind closed doors for the series. Several top England players have returned to streamlined outdoor training as well.

The start of the English season had already been delayed by the outbreak of the coronavirus, with officials initially postponing the season till July at the end of last month. The inaugural edition of The Hundred has been delayed until 2021.

The Professional Game Group will now draw up plans for the restart of domestic cricket, with their proposals going to the ECB board in June.

Among the ideas the ECB said Thursday were being considered are regionalised groups in for the 18 first-class counties as well as allowing in small numbers of spectators to grounds in order to maintain social distancing – although it is expected internationals in England this season will be played behind closed doors.

Non-televised domestic matches could be streamed live via club channels for county members and supporters.

Meanwhile the recreational game remains suspended, with the ECB looking to liaise with the British government on a possibly earlier return for lower-level cricket.

And even though it will be left with a severely shortened season, the ECB said the “ambition remains to host domestic men’s and women’s cricket across England and Wales later this summer”.

In a release, ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison, said: “Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level. We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season and planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play.

“While traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field.

“That can only happen though when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the game is our key priority,” Harrison added.

With AFP Inputs