Sam Billings is just one player who has tested positive for Covid

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The Royal London Cup is in danger of being cancelled leaving county cricket with a blank month due to a combination of covid and losing players to the Hundred as the pandemic brings chaos to the game.

Counties are worried about players self isolating, or being diagnosed positive for covid as the virus sweeps through younger people who are not fully vaccinated, while also conscious they could lose players to the Hundred if that tournament suffers withdrawals due to the virus. 

Derbyshire have 14 players self isolating after a squad member tested positive, and six injured, while Kent are without 17 first choice players including Sam Billings who contracted covid last week while on England duty. He has completed his 10 days quarantine but is not available for the weekend’s Vitality Blast quarter final due to the ECB’s return to play rules which state a player needs another seven days on the sidelines on top of the ten laid down by government.

It is not just players that are the worry for counties. They are concerned they will lose bar staff, stewards and office staff and are braced for a number of cancellations at the last minute.

The Hundred is on a knife edge with slim squads and the risk of covid sweeping through a franchise. Counties would then be braced for losing more players to the Hundred if that happens. There is also a big decision to make over England’s Test players. If they play in the opening rounds of the Hundred it risks exposure to covid before the first Test against India but the tournament badly needs the presence of the likes of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. The ECB is considering extra protocols around those players.

It will be up to the counties to decide if the Royal London Cup goes ahead and at the moment there is a determination to keep the show on the road, but there is acknowledgement it is in severe doubt and could be cancelled if counties have to rely on club players to fill their teams. The Royal London Cup is scheduled to coincide with the Hundred, reducing its quality with the best players involved in the new tournament. It starts on July 22 with the final at Trent Bridge on August 19.

On Wednesday Derbyshire cancelled their remaining two Blast matches and the ECB said in a statement the fixtures had been called off to “maintain the integrity of the two matches and of the competition as a whole”.