The North v South Series is unlikely to take place before the start of next season because of the all-consuming emphasis on England’s staging of the 2019 World Cup.
The likelihood that the series will be suspended was confirmed by Andrew Strauss, the ECB’s director of England cricket, after the North had taken the series 2-1 with victory in the final match in Barbados.
“We do these things on a year-by-year basis, so we’ll review this one,” Strauss told ESPNcricinfo. “Next year, the challenge is it’s getting very close to the World Cup, and operationally there’s a lot of things going on. However, I think what we’ve found is that this has stuck, and interest had built.”
Far from quietly shelving the tournament, Strauss floated the suggestion that the North v South rivalry could even be extended into red-ball cricket – an area that might be viewed as a higher priority given England’s recent Test struggles.
“I really think we’ve got something to build on here – and in my mind this North-South rivalry has a really strong future,” he told the ECB website.
“We’ll take a bit of time to speak to everyone involved and review this year’s series, but we’ve got an opportunity to think about it creatively – whether as a way of ensuring our leading white-ball cricketers have the stage to play some high-quality 50-over cricket after the introduction of our new domestic structure from 2020, or maybe taking this North-South rivalry into red-ball cricket.”
Strauss’ bullish tone came despite the fact this year’s tournament was affected by a number of injury withdrawals.
“There was a real feeling of taking a step forward this year in terms of the way the rivalry had become established between the teams, and also in the level of media interest in the series,” he said.
“Barbados has proved an excellent venue, most importantly for the quality of cricket facilities but also in encouraging some spectator interest and creating a bit of a buzz at the grounds.
“The coaches play a big part in setting the tone for what has been a seriously hard-fought series, and I’d like to thank them and all the players for that.”
One player whose stock has risen during the tournament is the Worcestershire and England Lions batsman, Joe Clarke, who picked up the Man of the Series award after a matchwinning century in the final game.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” Strauss said. “What we were trying to do is give an opportunity for some of these guys to show what they can do in a different environment from the county setting, and we’ve had a lot of individual performances that have been quite illuminating.
“For those of us that are here scouting players, we’ve had plenty to ponder. I think when we’re looking beyond 2019 to the 2023 World Cup, there’s a lot of reason for optimism.”