ECB today announced the new county fixture schedule for 2014 which will include regular Friday and Sunday start dates for the T20 and four-day competitions respectively, the advent of the new Royal London One-Day Cup and a new name and sponsor for the domestic T20 competition - the NatWest T20 Blast.
Next year's fixtures will be the first to be played under a new schedule, which will run until 2017 and has been introduced based on the recommendations of the Morgan Review into the domestic game and extensive customer feedback from more than 25,000 county cricket fans.
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ECB Chief Executive David Collier said: "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."
LV= County Championship
The first round of matches in the LV= County Championship will see last season's Division Two champions Lancashire travel to Nottinghamshire for their opening match in the top flight on Sunday April 6. Durham, the 2013 LV= County Championship winners, begin their title defence a week later with a trip to newly promoted Northamptonshire on Sunday April 13.
NatWest T20 Blast
The new NatWest T20 Blast competition kicks off in earnest on Friday May 16 with 14 counties in action nationwide including the current domestic T20 title winners Northamptonshire, who take on Yorkshire at Headingley. Middlesex then host Sussex and Essex at Lord's 24 hours later on Saturday May 17 in the first domestic T20 'double-header' played on the same day.
Friday night T20 action will be a consistent theme in the new-look county schedule with a total of 87 of the 126 group stage matches due to take place on Fridays over the 10-week course of the competition. Edgbaston will once again host Finals day on Saturday August 23 after the quarter-final stages are completed over the first weekend in August.
Royal London One-Day Cup
The new Royal London One-Day Cup, which replaces the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition and will be played in a 50-over format in line with one-day international cricket, begins on Saturday July 26 when last season's YB40 finalists Glamorgan take on Middlesex, Lancashire host Yorkshire in a Roses clash, and Hampshire visit Derbyshire.
The following day's round of matches sees Nottinghamshire, winners of last season's YB40 Trophy, travel to Sussex and 14 other Counties in Royal London One-Day Cup action.
Lord's will host the inaugural final of the competition on Saturday September 20.