THERE will be no professional cricket played in England and Wales until at least May 28, due the coronavirus pandemic.

Today's announcement by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) wipes out Somerset's first seven County Championship matches, meaning there is real doubt over whether the four-day competition will take place at all this season.

Those seven County Championship matches affected are as follows:

Sun, Apr 12: Somerset v Warwickshire

Sun, Apr 19: Surrey v Somerset

Sat, Apr 25: Somerset v Hampshire

Fri, May 1: Gloucestershire v Somerset

Fri, May 8: Somerset v Northamptonshire

Fri, May 15: Lancashire v Somerset

Fri, May 22: Warwickshire v Somerset

The ECB statement reads as follows: "The ECB Board has today agreed that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least May 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Board approved the recommendation to delay the start of the season following discussions with the First Class Counties, the MCC and the PCA.

"It was agreed that, given the current information available, a seven-week delay to the start of the season is the most appropriate approach.

"The ECB has begun modelling a range of options to start the season in June, July or August - with an immediate focus on options for cricket in June, including the three-Test series against West Indies, the Vitality Blast and England Women’s schedule against India.

"Close liaison with the government will continue, with discussions on the potential of starting the season behind closed doors and giving sports fans the opportunity to live broadcast action.

"The potential for reduced versions of competitions, should the season become further truncated, will also be discussed.

"The Board will meet as needed to review the position and make further decisions as the UK situation unfolds."

Ahead of the ECB announcement, Alec Stewart - the former England captain and now director of cricket at Surrey - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that The Hundred and the T20 Blast "will be the two priorities because of the financial implications to the game".

The T20 Blast is scheduled to start on May 28, with Somerset's first T20 match of the year, at home to Gloucestershire, set to take place on May 29.

The ECB's CEO, Tom Harrison, said: 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.

"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."