Warwickshire have welcomed the chance to stage a match at Edgbaston in the historic round of day/night matches in the Specsavers County Championship next June – especially as it will act as a “dry run” for the floodlit Investec Test between England and West Indies in Birmingham two months later.
The Bears will face Lancashire in a heavyweight Division One clash from Monday June 26, one of nine matches that will be played with pink Dukes balls and last well into the evening.
“I think all the counties were keen to get involved in what we see as an exciting innovation, and with us having the historic floodlit Test at Edgbaston in August, we’re really pleased to be one of the nine teams who will have a home day/night match in the Championship,” said Neil Snowball, the Warwickshire chief executive.
“We have Lancashire here on June 26 for what should be a really good four-day game. Having a Championship game under lights with a pink ball is very much a practice run to give everyone a chance to see how it goes – the players on the field, and our groundstaff and the rest of the administration off it.
“But hopefully it will also be a good chance for people in Birmingham and beyond to come and watch some County Championship cricket at a more convenient time in the middle of summer – as well as having a look at the lights and the pink balls.
“We love Championship cricket here at Edgbaston. Crowds are always going to be a challenge for a competition that’s played through the working week, so I think we will get a bigger crowd here for the day/night game.
“It starts on a Monday so we’ve got four days in the week, and we’ll be opening the doors after work for people to come in.
“We had a trial second team match against Worcestershire under lights here late in the 2016 summer, and the people who came absolutely loved it. So hopefully it could kickstart further interest in Championship cricket. We saw the finale to last season with Middlesex, Yorkshire and Somerset, but that was just one week of the year. We want that level of excitement the whole year round because County Championship cricket is really important to all of us.”
Snowball also confirmed that the Bears are buzzing after such a positive response to the announcement earlier in the autumn that the first Investec Test between England and West Indies in August will make similar history.
“The reaction so far has been phenomenal,” he added. “We launched the tickets at the beginning of October and we’ve sold 20,000 already, which is more in line with an Ashes Test than a normal West Indies Test. Also hospitality’s going very well, so we think it’s caught the imagination. But we need to remember we’re very good at selling Test cricket at Edgbaston anyway – we had 80,000 here this year for the Pakistan Test which was a record for us. So people love coming to Edgbaston, we know England love playing here, and to be here under the lights in a full house with the pink ball is going to be a truly memorable occasion.”
*Specsavers County Championship, June 26-29 – Day-Night Round. Division One: Essex v Middlesex, Hampshire v Somerset, Warwickshire v Lancashire, Yorkshire v Surrey. Division Two: Durham v Worcestershire, Glamorgan v Derbyshire, Northamptonshire v Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire v Kent, Sussex v Gloucestershire.