November 4, 2000

Centres of excellence and two-year trophy in new England fixture list

The emergence of UCCEs into the cricketing lexicon, along with the splitting of the former NatWest Trophy across two seasons, are two of the more striking features of the fixture list for the 2001 England domestic season, released by the England & Wales Cricket Board yesterday.

UCCE - whether that rhymes with "Il Duce", "Gucci" or "yucky" is something we do not yet know - stands for University Centre of Cricketing Excellence. There are six UCCEs - Oxford and Cambridge have been joined by centres based at Loughborough, Durham, Cardiff, and Bradford and Leeds. Part of a long-term developmental scheme established by the ECB, the six UCCEs will provide young players, both male and female, who are aspiring to play at county level, with structured training, coaching and playing programs while they undertake their tertiary education.

Each UCCE has been given three three-day games against county teams in the early part of the 2001 season, which will commence on April 16 with all six UCCEs in action.

The institutions taking part in each of the six UCCEs are:

  • Bradford/Leeds: Bradford College, University of Bradford, Leeds Metropolitan University, University of Leeds;
  • Cambridge: Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge University;
  • Cardiff: Cardiff University, Glamorgan University, University of Wales Institute (Cardiff);
  • Durham: Durham University (Durham and Stockton campuses);
  • Loughborough: Loughborough University;
  • Oxford: Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University.

The best players from the six UCCEs will appear in a British Universities eleven in a three-day match against the touring Pakistanis at Trent Bridge in early May.

Some elements of the domestic season reappear in 2001 with little or no change. The county championship, currently between sponsors, will continue in its successful two-division format and will commence on April 20, defending champions Surrey facing Kent at The Oval among the seven games in the first week. The Norwich Union National League returns with its season of 45-oversa-side matches. The Benson & Hedges Cup - that one-day series that seems to be regarded by everyone as one tournament too many, except for the players who wanted it - sees a complete set of group matches crammed into the week from April 30 to May 7, with knockout rounds stretching onwards to the final on July 14.

But it is the tournament formerly known as the NatWest Trophy which is to undergo a most radical change. Known as the Gillette Cup from 1963 to 1980 and the NatWest Trophy from 1981 to 2000, "The Trophy" (as it is described in the ECB's new fixture list until a sponsor can be found) will be conducted in its customary knock-out format for the 2001 season, with the final to be held at Lord's on September 1.

However, the first round for the 2002 tournament will be staged on August 29, 2001, with the second round on September 13. The remaining rounds, with the major counties joining in from round three, will be held early in the 2002 season.

The four international teams, Ireland, Scotland, Holland and Denmark, will be missing from the 2001 tournament as the third and fourth rounds clash with the ICC Trophy in Canada. All four return for the 2001-2002 competition.

On the international front, Pakistan's tour opens with the British Universities match commencing May 4, with their two-Test series against England beginning at Lord's on May 17. Australia open their England tour with a game against Worcestershire from June 1 to 3. The NatWest Series one-day international tournament between England, Australia and Pakistan will be held from June 7 to 23, with the five-Test series for the Ashes compressed into the period from July 5 to August 27.