ECB announces 2009 county fixtures
The reigning county champions, Durham, will begin their 2009 title defence against Yorkshire on April 22 with the traditional season-opener against the MCC, at Lord's, on April 9. In addition the ECB, whose fixtures for next season have today been announced, has created a window for the Stanford quadrangular series - from May 28 to May 30 - in spite of yesterday's concerns that Allen Stanford is to pull the plug on his involvement with cricket.
It promises to be a packed international summer for England who host West Indies, Australia and, for the first time, the ICC World Twenty20. Domestically the schedule is equally congested. The first round of Championship matches begin on Wednesday, April 9, with the last round due to start on Wednesday, September 23.
The Twenty20 Cup, whose prominence continues to grow, takes place either side of the ICC World Twenty20 and gets underway on Monday, May 25. The holders, Middlesex, begin their defence with a derby match against local rivals Surrey at Lord's. In addition to counties fighting each other for the trophy, qualification for the inaugural Champions League will be on their mind too, as well as securing a spot in the English Premier League in 2010. Finals day of the Twenty20 Cup will be held at Edgbaston on Saturday, August 15 and, in all, there will be five weeks of Twenty20 cricket held next season.
Due to the packed schedule the Friends Provident Trophy final has been brought forward from last season to Saturday July 25, with the group matches to be played in the first half of the season. Essex will begin their defence against Northamptonshire at Chelmsford on Sunday, April 19.
2009 will be the last year of the Pro40, which has attracted criticism in the past. Sussex, the holders, take on Essex for their opening match on Monday, July 13. In addition Warwickshire will host an England XI for a three-day game from July 1-3 in preparation for England's attempt to regain the Ashes. The first Test against Australia gets underway on July 8 in Cardiff.