2020 County Championship season set for latest ever finish with last round of fixtures scheduled to be completed just hours shy of October
- The Hundred is likely to disrupt the 2020 County Championship season
- Final round of County Championship fixtures is carded for September 27-30
- The new 100-ball tournament is provisionally listed from July 17 to August 16
- Seven rounds of the county season are scheduled to be completed by May 25 with a further four rounds held in the final 23 days of September
The County Championship title could be decided just hours shy of October next year under an ECB draft fixture schedule complicated by the introduction of the Hundred.
A provisional list of match days seen by Sportsmail has the final round carded for September 27-30, meaning that the destination of the pennant could be confirmed four days later in 2020 than this year when Essex rather unsatisfactorily pipped Somerset for top spot via a rain-ravaged draw in Taunton.
An even more unseasonable finish would represent the latest conclusion to an English county summer; a full week behind the dramatic finale in 2016 when Middlesex defeated Yorkshire in a title showdown on the final evening in front of a five-figure crowd at Lord’s.
CEO of the ECB Tom Harrison holds the County Championship Division One trophy
The new 100-ball tournament’s presence – provisionally listed from July 17-August 16 – means that seven rounds of Championship cricket are set to be completed by May 25 with a further four held in the final 23 days of September. In contrast, just three of the 16 four-day blocks put aside for 14 rounds of matches are between May 26 and August 22.
Although the county calendar remains subject to review, ahead of publication next month, that kind of itinerary will do nothing to appease those increasingly concerned that production of Test match players – namely top-order players able to bat time, genuinely fast bowlers and spinners – has been stymied by such a large proportion of the 129-year-old competition being shifted into the margins of the summer when conditions favour seam bowlers.
The proposed April 13 start date – eight days later than in 2019 – enables English players to feature for longer at the Indian Premier League next spring without conflict occurring with their county employers but there are other compromises necessary due to four formats being shoehorned into less than six months of action.
The gap between the end of the 14-game Twenty20 Blast group stage and its quarter-finals is set to be more than five weeks, book-ending the Hundred, which faces its only challenge in the peak period of the season from the downgraded 50-over competition – the final of which is on September 19 at its new home of Trent Bridge, a fortnight after T20 finals day at Edgbaston.
The gap between the T20 Blast group stage and quarter-finals is set to be more than five weeks