Essex will begin the defence of their Specsavers County Championship title at Chelmsford as they host Yorkshire.

The county champions’ opening game comes in the second week of the season on Sunday 19th April and is followed by matches against all three promoted teams, with Essex travelling to Northamptonshire and Lancashire before hosting Gloucestershire.

Essex’s quest to retain the Vitality Blast also begins at Chelmsford with the visit of Glamorgan. Somerset aim to win consecutive Royal London One-Day Cups — the competition being played alongside The Hundred — and open that campaign at Warwickshire.

County Championship opening round — Sunday 12th April:

Division One:

Yorkshire v Gloucestershire
Lancashire v Kent
Somerset v Warwickshire

Division Two:

Middlesex v Worcestershire
Sussex v Durham
Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire

Here are some other highlights from the new domestic fixture list.

Essex return to Taunton

The last time Essex went to Taunton in the Championship, it produced a thrilling conclusion on a pitch that turned square from the word “go”, and left Somerset with a 12-point deduction. Mark the calendars for Sunday 23rd August: the rematch is on — although don’t expect similar subcontinental conditions, with Somerset’s groundsman, Simon Lee, having moved east to The Ageas Bowl.

Championship’s earliest finish since 2016

Fears over the Championship running to the final day of September have not come to fruition. The final round of matches commence on Tuesday 22nd September, forming the earliest finish since Middlesex’s dramatics in 2016.

Only three sets of matches take place in June and July, however, with seven rounds in April and May. After Wednesday 8th July, no Championship cricket is played until Sunday 23rd August — a total of 45 consecutive days with no first-class matches.

The Hundred’s first outing

The Men’s Hundred gets underway on Friday 17th July at The Oval, where Oval Invincibles will face Welsh Fire, while the Women’s competition debuts on Wednesday 22nd July, with Birmingham Phoenix playing Manchester Originals at New Road.

Nine Men’s and Women’s matches will be played as double-headers at a Test venue, with the London derby at The Oval on Wednesday 29th July and the Northern Superchargers vs. Manchester Originals on Wednesday 5th August the two standout matches.

Jofra Archer and Steve Smith will renew their rivalry when Welsh Fire take on Southern Brave on Sunday 19th July. Both Finals Days will have a semi-final and a final, with the Men’s edition on Saturday 15th August and the Women’s on Friday 14th August. Neither venue has been confirmed.

Opting for 50-over outgrounds

Thanks to The Hundred, plenty of counties will be visiting outgrounds this season in the One-Day Cup, which starts on Sunday 19th July with the final at Trent Bridge on Saturday 19th September. Hampshire return to the Isle of Wight, Surrey are back at Guildford in List A cricket, while Lancashire play at Sedbergh, Blackpool, and Liverpool.

Warwickshire will be going to Edgbaston Community Sports Ground at Portland Road for two games, Sussex travel to Eastbourne and Horsham, Nottinghamshire play two at Grantham and one at Welbeck, and Durham bring 50-over cricket to South Northumberland CC alongside the Women’s Hundred.

Rounding out the trips to a home away from home: Middlesex’s typical trips to Radlett, Glamorgan visit Newport, Tunbridge Wells has three Kent fixtures, Chesterfield plays host for Derbyshire, and Yorkshire take all their games on the road to York CC and Scarborough. And…

Fret over Roses match

The One-Day Cup is not the only time Scarborough is being used in 2020. Its first match of the season comes in the Championship on Sunday 14th June, and the first Roses match at Scarborough since 1991. Yorkshire and Lancashire are one apiece from their pair of meetings beside the North Sea, the hosts taking that previous encounter by 48 runs.

A return fixture starts Tuesday 8th September at Old Trafford, while Yorkshire host the Blast clash on Thursday 4th June as Lancashire take home advantage on Friday 10th July.

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire’s two-week Cheltenham Festival slots in at the end of June into July, with Hampshire and Yorkshire the Championship visitors starting Monday 29th June. Sussex split the two in the Blast before Kent make the trip west.

London derby opens T20

It’s a marquee opening to the Blast in 2020, with The Oval hosting the London derby on Thursday 28th May. The competition’s group stage runs through to Sunday 12th July, with the quarter-finals beginning Tuesday 18th August and Finals Day at Edgbaston, as ever, on Saturday 5th September.

National Counties come to the party

The Minor Counties have been rebranded as the National Counties, and, ahead of the One-Day Cup, they will play one-day matches against the first-class counties on home turf. The standout fixtures come at Truro and Exmouth, where Somerset will play Cornwall and Devon, respectively. Six of their squad — of whom four will be available — hail from Devon.

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