Royal London Cup sets stage for enthralling end to domestic summer

Neil Snowball previews the end of the domestic season and Royal London Cup Final.

The ECB’s Managing Director of County Cricket, Neil Snowball, looks ahead to what promises to be an exciting finale to the men’s and women’s domestic season.

Over the next six weeks the domestic game will provide a stage to celebrate men’s and women’s cricket like we have never seen before.

That will begin with the Royal London Cup at Trent Bridge this week when Glamorgan and Durham will meet at Trent Bridge to claim the first piece of silverware for the summer.

I am a lifelong county cricket fan and the prospect of ‘Super September’ when a further five men’s and women’s competitions will be decided is impossible not to get excited about.

The new LV= Insurance County Championship structure will reach its climax with the best six counties battling it out together, while the Division Two and Three titles are also up for grabs.

It is fitting that the season will then end with the best two men’s county teams meeting in a showpiece five-day Lord’s final to decide the Bob Willis Trophy.

Throw in the Vitality Blast Finals Day at a sold-out Edgbaston, the finals of both the Charlotte Edwards Cup and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and we have the perfect stage to enthral both county members and those new to our game over the coming weeks.

That is a remarkable achievement given the challenges that we faced at the start of the year with the uncertainty surrounding how Covid-19 might affect our season.

It is a testament to the first-class counties and the women’s regional teams for the way they have collaborated over the past 15 months to allow us to look forward to a celebratory finale to the summer.

I would also like to send my deepest thanks to the generosity and support of our county members, many of whom donated their memberships last year.

Those actions will forever be cherished, never forgotten and reinforce their place at the very heart of our game in England and Wales.

The support of county fans has especially been on show during the Royal London Cup when I have visited venues or watched via the excellent live streaming services of the counties.

The Royal London One Day Cup has provided great memories for many county members and supporters, and has taken on many guises over the years. This year is no different with the final moving from Lord’s to Trent Bridge for the first time.

There has been much discussion and debate about the Royal London Cup being played alongside The Hundred and it has meant a very different look to the competition this year. Supporters will have their own views but what we have seen are matches hosted in the heart of the summer at popular out grounds such as York, Scarborough Guildford and Gosforth – all of which have enjoyed healthy crowds – combined with excellent performances from young emerging players such as Jack Haynes, Josh Rymell, Conor McKerr and Lewis Goldsworthy who have stepped up with the increased responsibility. The depth of young talent that Sussex have showcased over the past few weeks has, I’m sure, also excited fans on the south coast for what they can look forward to in years to come.

We are also aware that due to the pressure on the schedule, the final has been scheduled on a Thursday and with a short turnaround time between the semi-final and final this is clearly not an ideal situation – especially for county members and supporters looking to attend the final. I can assure supporters that it is our intention that the Royal London Cup final will return to a weekend slot next year.

There have undoubtedly been learnings from this year – across all our competitions – and while Covid has allowed us to experiment in a way we would normally not have done it is important we now discuss what has worked and what has not worked.

As ever the ECB will facilitate those discussion with the first-class counties, women’s regional teams, PCA, broadcasters and commercial partners.

Those discussions will include ways to improve the Royal London Cup, and build on the connection with the grassroots of the game that we have seen and felt over the past few weeks.

The prospect of formally incorporating the National Counties into the competition is an idea that has the potential to help achieve that ambition and I am sure will be on the agenda for discussion.

Over the coming months the ECB, first-class counties and the women’s regional teams will sit down and discuss the ways forward in the same collaborative manner that has served us so well during the pandemic and which, I am certain, will enable the domestic game to thrive for many more years to come.

Finally, I want to wish Glamorgan County Cricket Club and Durham Cricket all the best in Thursday’s final.