Front loaded County Championship schedule makes fast start essential

Front loaded County Championship schedule makes fast start essential

Yorkshire begin the defence of the title they won last year with a trip to New Road to face newly-promoted Worcestershire

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The most obvious point to note about the pattern of matches in the County Championship for 2015 is that there are no major changes from last year.

Starts will mainly be on a Sunday so there will be little Saturday Championship cricket; and the competition is still very much front loaded. The majority of games will be played by the end of June.

To take Durham as an example, they will have played nine of their 16 games before the start of July, which is before the Ashes series begins. The Championship holds sway until May 22nd when the Natwest T20 Blast starts, keeps going in combination with the shortest form until July 19th and then pretty well stops until mid-August.

Then it’s a late cavalry charge for the finish at the end of September. Is that good or bad? As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, for those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like.

Both of the newly promoted sides have tough debuts at the higher level. Hampshire make an early start on April 12th when they entertain Sussex who finished third last year. The following week, they travel to Edgbaston to take on last year’s runners-up, Warwickshire. On those same dates, Worcestershire meet the Champions, Yorkshire, at New Road and then travel to Hove to play Sussex. Welcome to Division One!

There are other early season games that will go into many diaries. Still in April, on 26th, Yorkshire take on Warwickshire at Headingley. Last year, the Tykes defeated the Bears comprehensively home and away, so this match should provide a pointer towards the relative strength of the two teams who are already installed by the bookmakers as 2015 title favourites. On the same date, in Division Two, Surrey take on Essex at the Kia Oval in a clash that should test the promotion ambitions of these South-East rivals.

For folk who like to take the road less travelled and watch their cricket at outgrounds that are sometimes beautiful and always quirky, there are still plenty of options. It is true that you can no longer see Glamorgan at Abergavenny, with the Sugarloaf mountain in the background. Somerset, like the Romans before them, have abandoned Bath. And Weston-super-Mare, once the haunt of Viv, Joel and “Beefy”, is now given over to retired Brummies, Peaky Blinders or not, taking their grandchildren for donkey rides.

But there is still Arundel, where Sussex play Durham on June 15th and Colwyn Bay, the venue for Glamorgan against relegated Lancashire on July 19th.

You can even see Saturday cricket at occasionally sunny, often windswept Scarborough, where Yorkshire take on Durham starting on Friday August 7th.

And then there is that truly special event, the Cheltenham Cricket Festival at the historic College Ground. Gloucestershire play two Championship games there, entertaining Northants and Leicestershire in early July, both Wednesday starts.

The list of matches seems endless. But experience tells us that the clock will keep on ticking and, all too soon, the final round of matches will be with us on Tuesday September 22nd. Will Yorkshire v Sussex at Headingley be the game that decides the title or could it be Somerset v Warwickshire at redeveloped Taunton?

In Division Two, will the winner of Surrey v Northants at the Kia Oval gain promotion? Might interested spectators be shuttling between there and Chelmsford, where Essex take on Lancashire? There will suely be some surprises. What will they be? Yorkshire for relegation, Leicestershire for promotion? Probably not. But you never know.

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