LONDON: Andrew Strauss has insisted “the status quo is not an option” as he called on county chiefs to back his reform plan for English cricket which includes cutting the number of first-class Championship matches. Former England captain Strauss has spent the last six months overseeing a high performance review for the England and Wales Cricket Board, launched following the men’s Test team’s humiliating 2021/22 Ashes series loss in Australia. His panel have come up with 17 recommendations, 15 of which already have the required backing. But two of the most significant changes needed the support of at least 12 of the 18 first-class counties. Strauss is adamant a reduction from 14 Championship matches per team to 10 is needed. His panel are also urging the adoption of a six-team top division sitting above two secondary conferences, who would play off for one annual promotion, to replace the current two-division model. Many county supporters have questioned how clubs are supposed to remain viable with a reduction in Championship fixtures. Concerns are particularly acute at non-Test match venues without one of the eight specially created sides for the ECB’s fledgling 100 balls per side Hundred competition. Strauss’ plan, however, does envisage Championship matches being played throughout the season, rather than at the start and end of a campaign as happens currently. Whether this would mean the return of first-class cricket in the August window now reserved for the Hundred is uncertain. But the former opening batsman said an overall reduction in the number of playing days would have the effect of helping meet the review’s target of England becoming the best cross-format team in the world within five years. Since the review was set up, England have won six out of seven Tests under a new leadership pairing of captain Ben Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum. Nevertheless, Strauss said Thursday: “The status quo is not an option. “Everyone in the game is telling us this. We have listened, we must now act.” The 45-year-old added: “A higher standard, more intense red-ball competition should be a great thing for (county) members, for players, for groundstaff, for coaches. “We need to understand it’s not all about volume.” A vote on the changes could take place by the end of November but the earliest they could be implemented is in the 2024 season.