Championship returns to late September in 2013
County cricket will return to the latter half of September in 2013, with the fixture list confirming that the window in the ICC's Future Tours Programme reserved for the T20 Champions League will not be kept free. The final round of the Championship will begin on September 24, 2013, meaning that the season will not be subject to the record early starts of recent years.
For the last three seasons, cricket in England has ceased in mid-September, to accommodate the Champions League. However, the counties recently agreed not to participate in the 2013 competition, in order to protect the domestic calendar.
The opening round of Championship matches will commence on April 10, five days later than in 2012, when the traditional pre-season university fixtures were forced to begin in March. The final of the Clydesdale Bank 40 will be held at Lord's on Saturday September 21, meaning that the domestic season will start and finish with first-class cricket.
The Friends Life t20 group stage, in its final year as a block, has been moved back due to the staging of the Champions Trophy in England and is scheduled to run for six weeks from June 26. The tournament retains the same format as last season, with three groups and ten games per county; Finals Day will be held at Edgbaston on Saturday August 17.
Warwickshire, winners of the 2012 Championship, will play the Champion County match against MCC in Abu Dhabi at the end of March before beginning their defence against newly promoted Derbyshire. Yorkshire, runners-up behind Derbyshire in Division Two, will mark their return to the top tier by hosting Sussex at Headingley. The two relegated clubs, Lancashire and Worcestershire, are to face off at Old Trafford in the opening round of Division Two.
Hampshire, holders of both limited-overs trophies, will play the first CB40 fixture of the season in a floodlit match at Essex on May 3, with Scotland, Netherlands and the Unicorns again joining the 18 counties in three groups. The competition is due to revert to a 50-over format from 2014, after the ECB and the counties agreed a compromise that would retain the current Championship structure.
As well as the Champions Trophy, which runs from June 6 until June 23, New Zealand will tour England in the first part of the summer, followed by the Ashes, with the first Test against Australia starting at Trent Bridge on July 10. Derbyshire, Kent, Somerset, Worcestershire, Sussex and Northamptonshire are all scheduled to host tour matches, while England will play an Ashes warm-up fixture at Essex.