The ECB has confirmed that the county season is set for its latest-ever finish, with the knockout stages of the T20 Blast to take place in October in order to maximise the chances of supporters being able to attend games.
The full fixture lists for the T20 Blast and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy were confirmed this morning, while it has also been confirmed that the Bob Willis Trophy final will be played over five days at Lord’s, as revealed by ESPNcricinfo in May.
The Blast’s format has reverted to three regional groups of six for this season, as used in its previous guises as the Twenty20 Cup from 2003-09 and the Friends Life T20 from 2012-13. Each team will play each other at home and away, meaning a total of ten group games per team, before all four quarter-finals are held on October 1.
The tournament will start on Thursday, August 27 with seven fixtures, including Essex starting their title defence at home to Middlesex. Derbyshire will play all their games away from home, with their ground given up to England women’s series against South Africa, while Lancashire will play at least one home game at Liverpool rather than Emirates Old Trafford due to England men’s white-ball fixtures against Pakistan and Australia.
Hampshire will play their first four games away from home to avoid a clash with international fixtures, while Middlesex will stage all their home games at Lord’s having played their Bob Willis Trophy fixtures at Radlett instead.
Finals Day will be staged on October 3 at Edgbaston. The ECB is continuing to work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on ways to ensure the safe return of fans after two pilot events were called off last month.
The government had initially stated its ambition to bring spectators back to sporting events from October 1. Finals Day ticket-holders for this year will be refunded, or can roll their tickets over to 2021, and if fans are allowed for this year’s event, it will be ticketed as a new event.
All 18 counties will have at least one fixture televised, with five neutral games scheduled including two double-headers to reduce the number of Covid-secure broadcast facilities that Sky will have to set up. One of the four quarter-finals will also be televised, as well as Finals Day, while matches not broadcast will be streamed live by counties.
The Bob Willis Trophy final will start on Wednesday, September 23, and will take place between the two group winners with the most points. In the event of a drawn final, the trophy will be awarded to the team that leads on first innings.
The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy starts on Saturday, August 29, with all eight new teams playing on both that day and on Monday, August 31. All fixtures will be staged at county grounds, with the two group winners playing in a final on Saturday, September 26 at the home venue of the team with more points.
No games will be televised live, but the ECB is working on plans to live-stream some fixtures. With the season extending into October, all white-ball knockout games have been assigned a reserve day.
“After a challenging few months it’s really exciting that we can look forward to three domestic finals at the end of the summer,” Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, said. “It promises to be a thrilling climax to the season, and something members, fans and everyone involved in the game can look forward to.
“The fact we’ve been able to get so much domestic cricket played this summer owes to the collaborative efforts of the county network and their willingness to find a way to get the game on in the safest way possible for all involved. There will be many more challenges ahead, but the unity and spirit shown during this summer has been a tribute to the county network as we work together to grow our sport.”