The ECB has announced the fixtures for the 2014 county season, with LV= County Championship winners Durham kicking things off with the now customary trip to the UAE from the 23rd March for a floodlit four-day game against the MCC.
The MCC University matches against the counties then begin on 1st April, with the opening round of the Championship five days later. The concluding round begins on 23rd September, meaning that the final day of the season will be Friday 26th.
The first matches in the now virtually season-long Natwest t20 are on Friday 16th May - as opposed to 26th June in 2013 - when holders Northamptonshire get their defence underway with a trip to Headingley. The final round of group games are on 25th July ahead of the quarter-finals and then Finals Day on 23rd August at Edgbaston. Most of the games are now on Friday as expected and in line with the ECB’s market research, with a fair proportion of those in the evening. There are hardly any midweek games, with only a smattering on Sunday.
That is a day that is now almost exclusively the start day for LV= County Championship fixtures. Almost all of the matches up until the final month of the season run from Sunday until Wednesday. Champions Durham kick off against newly-promoted Northamptonshire from 13th April.
The Royal London One-Day Cup, now a 50-over competition, has essentially assumed the place of last season’s midsummer Friends Life t20, with group games taking place from 26th July until 21st August on any day of the week. There will be quarter-finals in this year’s competition, with the final played at Lord’s on 20th September. Champions Nottinghamshire begin on 27th July against Sussex at Horsham.
ECB Chief Executive David Collier explained the revised schedule: “This schedule has been designed to make the needs of the fans our number one priority. With nearly 70 per cent of T20 group matches scheduled for Friday nights, 67 per cent of LV=County Championship matches commencing on a Sunday and a school summer holiday slot for The Royal London One-Day Cup, this schedule meets the demand from fans for regular ‘appointments to view’ across all our domestic competitions.”
“We welcome Royal London to our family of domestic cricket sponsors for the first time and are also excited about the role the NatWest T20 Blast will play in attracting a wider audience to our county game – with Friday nights providing the perfect opportunity for fans to combine a weekend night out with watching cricket. “
© Cricket World 2013