Administration Director David Griffin takes a look at the 2014 fixture list and pinpoints the games and dates supporters can pen into their diaries for next summer.
For anyone unfamiliar with B2D (Before two Divisions) it’s no surprise that we all have to wait until late November before we get a sight of the fixture list for the following season.
However, traditionally – i.e. up until 2000 – the fixtures were published in late July or early August of the ongoing season; a task simplified by the fact that although there were four competitions, the Championship and Sunday League tournaments were based on all 17 (18 since 1992) teams competing in a single division.
As a result, Members and supporters had much longer to devour the fixture list and look forward to the following season. It also offered opportunities to plan visits to new away grounds as the first round of the Gillette Cup, later the NatWest Trophy (and other names) was traditionally played between first-class and minor counties, and usually at a minor county ground.
Thus it was that Derbyshire visited Bury St Edmunds, Boughton Hall in Chester, Kendal, Wisbech and a plethora of other fascinating locations around the country throughout the heyday of one day knockout cricket in the 70s and 80s.
Factor in the reduction of outgrounds and festival cricket, plus the regionalisation of Twenty20 cricket, and the fixture list throws up fewer surprises than it once did, although one venue did leap from the 2014 fixture list, a ground that will certainly bring back happy memories for Derbyshire Captain Wayne Madsen.
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the oldest in county cricket and Derbyshire has enjoyed regular success there over the last couple of decades. In 2009, Derbyshire completed an emphatic 185-run victory in a match fondly remembered for Madsen’s unbeaten 170 on debut, the highest ever score by a Derbyshire debutant.
Derbyshire’s players and supporters will have to get used to festival cricket in July as the game against Gloucestershire immediately follows the Chesterfield Festival where Essex will provide opposition in the LV= County Championship game, with Leicestershire opening – and Yorkshire closing - the festival in the NatWest T20 Blast format.
Early July sees the Indian tourists visiting the County Ground in a three-day fixture. They possess some hugely talented cricketers and blessed with good weather, there should be healthy crowds for this fixture.
Derbyshire are scheduled to play 14 of the other 17 counties with just Middlesex, Somerset and Sussex missing. This is a disappointment as our re-acquaintance with both the latter counties and their headquarters in 2013 were both hugely successful and enjoyable.
Regular travellers will nonetheless be looking forward to the venues offered by Division Two cricket in 2014 – aside from the already-mentioned Cheltenham, there’s also Chelmsford, Worcester and Canterbury, all, in their own unique way, splendid, traditional county cricket venues. And Cardiff, for all its re-development into a Test match venue, still exudes charm at the non-revamped Taff End.
Friday nights at Derby should also be fun with regular NatWest T20 Blast matches under the floodlights, and with the majority of Championship matches starting on a Sunday, hopefully more members and spectators will be able to watch these matches as they unfold over the opening day.
In a desire to ensure greater accessibility for spectators, Derbyshire will play cricket – home and away – on 16 Sundays in 2014; but what the ECB give with one hand they take away with the other – Derbyshire are scheduled to play cricket on just one Saturday. At least that game is at home.
There are a combined 39 days of scheduled cricket during an action packed June and July before the onset of an exclusive period of Royal London One Day Cup cricket signals a far more sedate August where, hopefully, six days of cricket will become eight should Derbyshire qualify for the latter stages of both limited-overs competitions. With nine teams comprising each division of the LV= County Championship, one team sits out each round of matches. It’s unfortunate that Derbyshire’s turn to sit out comes within August’s only four day slot. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, meanwhile, for another dry April, during which Derbyshire open their campaign with four LV= County Championship matches; three on the road and one – versus Hampshire – at the County Ground.
Nonetheless, the season is longer than ever which at least allows players longer to recover and prepare. In the mid-70s, Derbyshire’s 90 days of cricket took place in a season that lasted just 133 days; in contrast in 2013, our 85 days of cricket were spread over a much greater 170 days.
Much research was conducted by the ECB before the new structure was produced and it is to be hoped that the extended NatWest T20 Blast competition combined with a short, sharp period of Royal London One-Day Cup cricket will prove fruitful.
Roll on April.
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