The fixture list for the 2010 season has been released, and reveals some key changes to the cricketing calender.
Gloucestershire will begin their 2010 season with a County Championship match against Northamptonshire on Thursday 15th April at Nevil Road and the new ECB 40 League will be played out across the whole season with a break for the new Friends Provident Twenty20 competition, which begins on Friday 4th June.
A key change to the County Championship matches is the shift to midweek cricket: many of the games are Monday or Tuesday starts. This was the wish of many clubs who cited Saturday's as a non-cricket watching day due to the numerical strength of club cricket. Although a curious insertion of a Saturday evening fixture - T20 v Hampshire at Bristol - will be an interesting experiment.
The Saturday fixture will be part of the new Friends Provident T20 that will be played out over a much larger period - from the opening fixture at Sophia Gardens on Friday 4th June until Sunday 18th July when Surrey are the visitors to Nevil Road; respite is found in two County Championship matches that break-up the barren six-week period of the shortest format.
The fixtures show potential for the Gloucester festival to be renewed - with two Twenty20 matches highlighted as "TBC"; a return to Gloucester is subject to a sponsorship deal being arranged. This blog sincerely hopes a deal can be arranged to secure cricket back to the heart of the county.
The Shire will visit far fewer outgrounds next season: Arundel for a championship match and Uxbridge for a T20 are the only temporary away venues scheduled. This blog is most pleased that Lord's is back on the agenda, although disappointed at consecutive trips to the capital for back-to-back championship matches.
The Cheltenham festival is set for a slightly reduced format; two championship matches are flanked by two 40-over games from Thursday 29th July until Sunday 8th August. The Thursday start is very curious; one would have thought beginning on a Friday would have kickstarted the festival well, and is bound to be a more attractive day for commercial sales and supporters to take a day off work. This becomes all the more strange as Tuesday 3rd August is a blank day - the whole schedule could therefore be moved along a day to provide a Friday start.
The season will finish a week earlier than last year in order to accommodate the T20 champions league - a shame that the ECB have bowed to India's insistence once more, but allows for the final of the ECB 40 League to provide a grand finale to the season.
The fixture list appears nicely balanced; the ECB 40 League has been given an opportunity to develop across the course of the season and should provide a good competition, although this blog advocates for a quarter-final stage also. The longer format, and a Lord's final - under floodlights for the first time, is rightly back at the pinnacle of one-day cricket.
OPENING MATCH: Thursday 15 April v Northamptonshire, Bristol, LVCC
FIRST ONE-DAY MATCH: Sunday 25 April v Derbyshire, Bristol, 40L
POTENTIAL GLOUCESTER FESTIVAL: Friday 11th June & Sunday 13th June, T20
LOCAL DERBYS: Friday 18 June v Somerset, Taunton, T20
Friday 16 July v Somerset, Bristol, T20
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: Thursday 29th July - Sunday 8th August
FINAL MATCH: Monday 13th September v Surrey, Bristol, LVCC