English cricket will feature a major change to the tradition of the pre-match coin toss to decide which team bats first in 2016, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Thursday.
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.”
However, the decision was greeted with a mixed reaction from current and former players.
Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale, whose team have lifted the County Championship for the last two seasons, called the move madness.
“So no coin toss next year if away team doesn’t want it?! absolute madness,” he tweeted.
“2018, batters aren’t allowed pads either and bowlers can only come off 5 steps!!”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan added that the ECB should employ its own groundsmen to ensure pitches help all bowlers, rather than tinker with the rules.
“Why don’t you just employ all the groundsman @ECB_cricket?? Would save the need for any radical changes!!?” he tweeted.