Desired blast given to new calendar
The 2014 county cricket calendar reveals much sort-after regularity with consistent slots in the week for County Championship and Twenty20 cricket.
The hitherto byzantine world of the county fixtures has been shuffled into a largely coherent schedule until at least 2017. By and large, four-day cricket will begin on a Sunday and Twenty20 cricket will be played on a Friday night.
England have detached themselves from world cricket with the new NatWest T20 Blast being spread throughout the season but it was the desire of a majority of counties for their most lucrative fixtures to be played at the most attractive time for spectators.
The competition reverts back to the North-South group split last seen in 2011 with counties playing 14 qualifying matches before quarter-finals and the traditional Finals Day on Saturday, August 23 at Edgbaston. Of the 126 group matches, 87 will be played on Friday nights.
The changes to the calendar are based on the Morgan Report and feedback from 25,000 fans.
Fifty-over cricket also makes a return in the new Royal London One-day Cup. The competition's preliminary stage has been given a three-week slot beginning at the end of July - to coincide with the school summer holidays - with quarter-finals added at the end of August.
The Unicorns, Netherlands and Scotland are no longer part of the tournament, which has a feature Lord's final on Saturday, September 20.
"This schedule has been designed to make the needs of the fans our number one priority," ECB Chief Executive David Collier said. "With nearly 70% of T20 group matches scheduled for Friday nights, 67% of 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 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."