Cricket faces up to its greatest dilemma: Why do counties exist?

What are counties for? It is, perhaps, the central question underpinning the high performance review and the future of the English domestic game. The full men’s high

performance review report, published on Thursday, proposes that the 18 first-class counties think more strategically about their overall purpose, and are encouraged to develop

areas of unique strength. Each year, all counties receive around £4 million from the England & Wales Cricket Board, including the money they are paid for the Hundred

competition to run. Each county, essentially, has had the same aspirations – to try and win trophies and produce players for England along the way. Yet these aims have not

reflected the vastly different finances and geographies of the different counties. For most counties, that £4 million of funding equates to the majority of their overall income;

indeed, in some cases the ECB gives the counties 75 per cent of their cash. But it has not always been clear exactly what the returns on the ECB money is. For instance, no

Derbyshire player has made his debut for England since Dominic Cork, in 1995; in the same period, the club’s sole honour was winning County Championship Division Two. Now,

the hope is that the high performance review provides a chance for counties to think more strategically about their realistic aspirations and how they can best contribute to the

wider health of English cricket.