ECB has announced the full domestic fixture programme for 2017 which will include an historic first full round of nine day/night matches in the Specsavers County Championship next June. www.ecb.co.uk/matches/county/fixtures.
The day/night matches – hosted by Essex, Hampshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire in Division One, and Durham, Glamorgan, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Sussex in Division Two – will all start on Monday 26 June, and be played with pink Dukes balls.
Today’s announcement of a full round of floodlit four-day games breaks new ground for the County Championship, which has only featured one previous day/night match – a trial game between Kent and Glamorgan at Canterbury in 2011.
The move is designed to help broaden the audience for the four-day game and also give England players an opportunity to experience the conditions ahead of another slice of history later in the 2017 summer – Edgbaston hosting this country’s first ever day/night Test Match between England and West Indies (17-21 Aug).
It means that 10 of the 18 first-class counties will stage day/night fixtures with pink balls next summer, as West Indies will have their chance to prepare for the Investec Test Match at Edgbaston in a three-day match against Derbyshire from 11-13 August.
“We were excited to announce a few weeks ago that Edgbaston will be staging an historic day/night Test, and it’s great that the counties, and the Specsavers County Championship, can also get involved,” said Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive officer.
“It was important for us to arrange a full round of fixtures to give our England players the chance to experience the conditions. But just as we wanted to assess the impact of making Test cricket more accessible by changing the hours of play, the counties have really embraced the potential of Championship matches that stretch well into the evening when people have finished school or work.
“The early indications from Edgbaston are that day-night Test cricket is proving very popular, and hopefully it will be the same for the Specsavers County Championship now the fixtures are confirmed. There are some really attractive matches in the day/night round, and it will be fascinating to see how it works out.”
Specsavers County Championship
The Specsavers County Championship season begins on 7 April with three matches in each division – the first of seven rounds that begin on a Friday, meaning a significant increase in the amount of weekend Championship cricket in 2017. Essex, last year’s Division Two champions, begin their first Division One season since 2010 with a home game against Lancashire, while Andrew Gale will have home advantage at Headingley against Hampshire in his first match as Yorkshire’s coach.
Middlesex, who won their first Championship title since 1993 in such thrilling circumstances by beating Yorkshire at Lord’s in September, launch their defence at Hampshire in the second round of matches starting on Friday 14 April – giving them extra time to prepare after playing the MCC in the opening first-class fixture of the 2017 domestic season from 26-29 March, a game which will again be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and which also features floodlights and pink Dukes balls.
Royal London One-Day Cup
Warwickshire will launch their defence of the Royal London One-Day Cup on Thursday 27 April with an away game at Northamptonshire, the competition having been brought forward to the spring – meaning all the group matches will be played before the ICC Champions Trophy in June.
The top three teams in each of the two nine-team groups will qualify for knockout stages in mid-June, with the final at Lord’s on Saturday 1 July.
NatWest T20 Blast
The NatWest T20 Blast will begin the following Friday, 7 July, and will dominate the next seven weeks of the season – a major shift in emphasis for the competition, meaning the teams will play their 14 qualifying matches in a concentrated period in high summer rather than spread over three months as previously.
Northamptonshire Steelbacks, who were crowned Blast champions for the second time in four years at Edgbaston last August, have home advantage on the opening night against a Derbyshire Falcons team who have appointed the former New Zealand batsman and India coach John Wright as county cricket’s first specialist T20 coach.
The top four in each of the North and South groups will again qualify for the quarter finals, which will be played on four consecutive evenings from 22-25 August, with the winners earning their places at Finals Day on 2 September at Edgbaston.
“We are gearing up for a long, busy and exciting summer,” added Harrison. “We have two ICC world events with the Champions Trophy in June and the Women’s World Cup in July, and now county cricket will have a different rhythm.
“The Royal London One-Day Cup’s position earlier in the season means a Lord’s final in July rather than mid-September, and the NatWest T20 Blast will also have a very different feel, being played in a block of matches during the school holiday months of July and August.
”With eight teams in Division One and 10 in Division Two under the new structure of the Specsavers County Championship, and the Kia Super League returning for a second season after such a promising debut in 2016, there is so much to look forward to.”