LONDON (AFP) – Michael Vaughan has slammed English cricket chiefs over the number of domestic Twenty20 matches being played ahead of the Ashes, saying he would "punch them in the face" if administrators tried to justify their actions.
Vaughan, England's captain when they regained the Ashes in 2005 in one of the most thrilling of all Anglo-Australian series, said that "every single player in the country should be playing four-day cricket now," in order to give Alastair Cook's men the best possible chance of retaining the urn.
Instead there have been no County Championship fixtures for a fortnight, with the first-class competition suspended just days ahead of Wednesday's opening Ashes Test at Trent Bridge while the county Twenty20 tournament starts instead.
As a result, England had to take the unusual step when at home of scheduling a four-day Ashes warm-up against Essex only for that match, in scenes widely condemned as "farcical", to be stripped of its first-class status midway through when the county brought in replacements after injuries to two of its seamers.
An angry Vaughan said all this could have been avoided, the former Yorkshire batsman telling a Sports Journalists' Association brunch: "I get sick and tired of talking about scheduling but this is the biggest thing that happens in this country, the Ashes series.
"How our schedulers have not been able to produce a round of four-day championship matches leading into an Ashes series is beyond me.
"If I could get any answer from an administrator telling me it's worthwhile us playing Twenty20 now, England playing Essex -- and then I think Sussex play in a four-day game starting on Monday in the middle of Twenty20 -- I'd punch them in the face. Because they are wrong. Every single county should be playing four-day cricket this week."
Vaughan added: "England players would be better suited playing a real competitive county match under pressure than they would have been playing Essex.
"England did the right thing because of the scheduling. They thought, 'We can't have the lads playing Twenty20 cricket leading into an Ashes series, we'd better create our own game', so they had to create something.
"I would point the finger at the administrators who come up with the system of our scheduling.
"What happens if we get five injuries in the next week? And we are picking guys that have played Twenty20 cricket -- it is ridiculous.
"England are a good team and I think they have enough to beat Australia whatever happens now but you have got to have the best and most professional system and things like that have got to be better."
However, an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman, responding to Vaughan's comments, told Friday's Daily Telegraph: "Scheduling isn't about one week. It's about the whole series and the whole summer and we think we've got that right."