Yorkshire CCC: Ridiculous scheduling means T20 Blast has become lottery – Chris Waters

“WHO will win the 20th edition?”

That was the question posed on the front cover of the T20 Finals Day programme at Edgbaston last week.

As we now know, the answer was Hampshire, who followed their semi-final win against Somerset with victory in the final against Lancashire, who won their Roses semi-final against Yorkshire.

But, in truth, any of the four teams could have won it, along with any number of counties who did not reach Finals Day, because the whole thing – and indeed much of county cricket – is now little more than a glorified lottery.

NOT QUITE: Tom Kohler-Cadmore hit 66 in Yorkshire’s semi-final defeat against Lancashire at Edgbaston. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

That was shown by the quality of players who were unavailable to take part on Finals Day.

Yorkshire were without their captain, David Willey, plus Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow; Lancashire were missing Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone, and Somerset were without Craig Overton.

All six were involved in England’s one-day international series against India, with the deciding game of that series starting in Manchester just over 12 hours after the climax of the T20 final in Edgbaston.

A more glaring example of ridiculous scheduling would be difficult to find; it is a travesty that counties – already little more than glorified punch bags in any event – are deprived of their finest players for domestic finals.

Hampshire celebrates with the trophy following victory over Lancashire Lightning following the Vitality Blast T20 final match at Edgbaston Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

Overseas availability is also a lottery.

There is so much international cricket nowadays, so many training camps, and so on, that counties can sign someone one day only to find out that he is unavailable the next, throwing all their plans into chaos.

That has been the case now for several years.

Yorkshire have often been affected in that regard, with deals called off at a moment’s notice or abruptly shortened, and that’s before the impact of injuries, and so on.

They even fielded four overseas players in this year’s Blast in an effort to get around the various challenges produced by international call-ups – Haris Rauf, Shadab Khan, Finn Allen and Dominic Drakes.

And although he did not have a great tournament, if truth be told, failing to kick on from several fast starts, Allen was also unavailable for Finals Day owing to New Zealand’s white-ball commitments in Ireland.

Overall, Yorkshire had a pretty good competition and as good a year as they have had in the Blast with the exception, I would say, of 2012, when they had two red-hot overseas players in Mitchell Starc and David Miller.

There was no dramatic improvement in Yorkshire’s T20 play this summer – certainly not one that the likes of Allen and Shadab might have inspired on their best form, but then overseas signings are themselves hit-and-miss, and neither man did himself justice in the round.

There were impressive contributions with the bat from Adam Lyth, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and, when available, Harry Brook and Willey, but the bowling was light on experience and sometimes on quality, which was perhaps to be expected under the circumstances.

The likes of Dom Bess, Willey and Drakes bowled well, as did Jordan Thompson at times, the leading wicket-taker, while the fielding, in general, was of a good standard, and there is certainly something for Yorkshire to build on.

Perhaps the most sobering reflection, though, was that you could play the whole competition again, with a different international schedule around Finals Day, and come out with a completely different outcome – something that you would not expect to happen if you re-ran football’s Premier League, for example, when it would still be the usual suspects of Manchester City and Liverpool on top.

Indeed, could anyone really say, hand on heart, that Hampshire are the best T20 team in the country, or did they just get lucky in the sense that Yorkshire, Lancashire and also Somerset were not at full strength?

That is not to decry their achievement, fully deserved, but to highlight a truism of the county game. For it is a lottery now on pretty much every level, a problem from which there is no going back.

If it is not international cricket taking players away, it is Lions’ games, T20 franchise competitions, you name it.

Consequently, to the question: “Who will win the 21st edition of the T20 Blast next summer?” the answer is simple... “No idea.”