BBL to begin in Tasmania and Canberra hubs, talks continue over Perth matches

The venues for matches in January remain to be confirmed amid hope of more border restrictions being lifted

Moises Henriques receives the BBL trophy, Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars, BBL 2019-20 final, Sydney, February 8, 2020

Moises Henriques receives the BBL trophy  •  Getty Images

Tasmania and Canberra will host the first batch of BBL games this summer from December 10, before the competition swings into Queensland and Adelaide late in the month.
Cricket Australia unveiled a long-delayed schedule for the first portion of the competition on Thursday, with 21 matches locked on up until New Year's Eve. The remaining fixtures will likely include Sydney and Melbourne, with negotiations also ongoing around holding some games in Perth. It is believed that Melbourne may be lined up to host the tournament finals.
The finals series begins with the Eliminator (January 29), followed by the Qualifier (January 30), the Knockout (January 31), the Challenger (February 4) with the Grand Final, which will have a reserve day in case of bad weather, on February 6.
Hobart Hurricanes, Sydney Sixers, Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades and Adelaide Strikers will all commence their campaigns in Hobart at Bellerive Oval, while Sydney Thunder, Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat will begin their tilts for the title in matches at Canberra's Manuka Oval. Defending champions the Sixers will open the tournament against the Hurricanes.
"Our ambition and really strong hope is that we can get BBL matches to every market," Alistair Dobson, the head of the BBL, said. "As those border restrictions and movements become clearer almost daily that will allow us to lock that in with more confidence. If we can get games to every club's home market, that's certainly our desire."
On the prospect of a pre-determined location for the final, he added: "It comes up in our planning every year as to whether you lock in a venue and it allows you to do promotion and event planning. The flip side is that making sure you have passionate home fans in the stadium. BBL is known for its innovation and is prepared to take risks on those things so we are definitely open for it."
The 2021 fixtures for the tournament have been unveiled, but with their venues to be confirmed - there remains the possibility that these later rounds will revert to a more conventional home and away fixture should state borders and related restrictions be eased in the time of Covid-19.
To allow the tournament to continue while the Australia-India day-night Test is held in Adelaide from December 17-21, there will be two morning matches on December on 19 and 20 in Hobart leading into the start of play at the Test.
There will be no Christmas Eve fixture this year with the tournament resuming with a double-header on Boxing Day and there will also be a double header after the opening day of the Sydney Test on January 7. On December 26, the second of those matches at the Metricon Stadium will start at the relatively late local time of 8.20pm which means it could finish at close to midnight. Dobson indicated that some of these new timings may not be one-offs.
"Sometimes when you have to look for different things it gives you the chance to try new things and there's no reason if they are successful that we wouldn't continue with them in the future," he said.
Adelaide Oval will host its traditional New Year's Eve fixture when the Strikers take on the Scorchers. It is hoped that stadiums will be able to host crowds of up to 50% capacity during the December matches.
The final day of the group games will be on Australia Day, January 26, which will be a triple-header of matches with two afternoon contests and one in the evening.
"This is without doubt the most complex fixturing task ever undertaken by the league and we are excited with where it has landed. It has been a difficult year for so many people around Australia and we look forward to bringing the BBL to every state should border conditions allow us to," Dobson said.
"We're also pleased to provide certainty to our clubs, players, broadcasters, commercial partners and governments today with confirmation of match-ups, dates and start times for the entire BBL campaign, and venues for matches through to the end of 2020. We are working through scenarios for the remaining 35 regular season matches and Finals series to be played in the New Year with our clubs, broadcasters, partners and governments. An announcement on these venues will be made in the coming weeks."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig