There will be no professional cricket played in England and Wales until May 28, the ECB has announced.
The governing body approved a seven-week delay to the start of the 2020 season following discussions with the first-class counties, the MCC and the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, said: “During this period of deep uncertainty it is the ECB’s first priority to protect the wellbeing of everyone within the cricket family, from players to fans and colleagues across the game.
“The decision to delay the start of the season has been essential, given the circumstances the nation faces.
“I am reassured by the collaborative effort from across the game that together we will make the very best of whatever length of season we are able to safely schedule in the coming months.”
The ECB said work has begun on possible revised schedules to begin in June, July or August.
The immediate focus is on options for cricket in June, including the three-Test series against West Indies, the Vitality Blast and England Women’s schedule against India, with the ECB determined to prioritise delivering as much international and domestic action as possible.
Harrison said: “With the information available to us at the moment a delay to the start of the professional cricket season until May 28 was unavoidable.
“This also allows us time to keep pace with a fast-moving situation and continue to plan for how a revised season might look. Critically, we can also remain as flexible and adaptable as possible, within the obvious restrictions we face.
“Securing the future of the game will be a primary focus as we plot a revised schedule with an emphasis on the most financially important forms of the game for the counties across international and domestic cricket.”
PCA chief executive Tony Irish welcomed the decision.
“The PCA supports this decision to delay the start of the season based on expert advice relating to health and wellbeing and taking into account the government’s position,” Irish said in a statement.
“The decision has at least given clarity to players following a week of uncertainty about whether or not they will be playing over the coming weeks.
“All players are in this together and as their players’ association we now need to work for the players collectively in dealing with the ECB and the first-class counties to find solutions to the challenges ahead.
“Naturally, players have concerns around when they will be able to start playing again, about what the schedule will look like when cricket resumes and about employment security around their contracts.
“The PCA will represent them in dealing with these issues with the ECB and the counties and seek the right solutions and ones that are acceptable to the players.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain said the ECB had no choice but to delay the season.
“Cricketers, groundsmen, clubs, umpires – anyone involved in the professional game – would have just wanted some kind of clarity and date to work to,” Hussain, now a pundit and broadcaster, told Sky Sports.
“It’s probably going to be arbitrary and who knows what’s going to happen in the next couple of months. But they would have wanted to know that we’re not doing anything until that period.
“Cricket is low down on the list of priorities for the nation, but it was good there was a bit of clarity from the ECB. What they will have to do is prioritise the financial decisions in all this – Test match cricket, white-ball cricket.
“Maybe the purist will just have to suck it up this summer with the County Championship. These are the decisions the ECB will have to make with their stakeholders and their partners.”
Nottinghamshire had been due to play a pre-season friendly against Lancashire at Trent Bridge on March 30, and had six Specsavers County Championship matches during the affected period.
“I feel particularly sorry for our members and supporters as well as our players and coaches, who have all been eagerly looking forward to the new season for some time,” said Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell.
“It’s also a real shame that the season won’t be able to start promptly for the many club and recreational cricketers for whom cricket is an important part of their lives, and for those that attend the many sessions we deliver in the community.
“We are in regular contact with the ECB and will spend the next few days working through the ramifications for us as a club, as a business and for the game of cricket in Nottinghamshire.”
Derbyshire chief executive Ryan Duckett said ensuring the safety of everyone involved in cricket was of paramount importance.
“This is an extremely challenging time for us all and with an impact on cricket inevitable, the sport must put the safety of everyone involved at the forefront of all decisions,” Duckett told the official Derbyshire website.
“We hope to see professional cricket return to Derbyshire as soon as possible, but will continue to closely follow the developing situation and provide assistance to the ECB wherever possible.
“The ECB board will meet as needed to review the position and make further decisions as the UK situation unfolds.”