Kent learn 2020 fixture fate
Kent learn 2020 fixture fate

Kent will travel to Chelmsford to take on Essex in the opening round of fixtures in the Bob Willis Trophy, 2020’s domestic first-class tournament in England & Wales.

The ‘Battle of the Bridge’ is one of five four-day matches in the one of three regionalised groups, including six teams all playing each other once. All matches will hold full-class status, but the competition is separate from the County Championship.

The two group winners with the most points will then compete in a five-day final of the competition.

Three of Kent’s five group fixtures will take place behind-closed-doors at The Spitfire Ground, St. Lawrence in Canterbury, including the Club’s final fixture against Hampshire on 6th – 9th September.

All of Kent’s home matches will boast an enhanced live-stream on the Kent Cricket website, and the Club have confirmed that radio commentary from BBC Radio Kent will be integrated into the live stream from the 2020 season.

Highlights of each day’s play are also set to be available online on-demand.

A special edition women’s domestic 50-over competition will also be staged this summer, featuring the eight new teams in the women’s elite domestic structure.

The competition will also be regionalised, into two groups of four teams, with the group winners meeting in a final. The staging of this competition reflects the ECB’s commitment to continue the journey to professionalise the domestic game for women.

Fixtures for the women’s domestic competition are set to be announced alongside confirmation of the full schedule for the Vitality Blast next month. The Vitality Blast will commence on 27 August.

Kent Cricket’s CEO, Simon Storey said: “Today’s announcement of the Bob Willis Trophy fixtures marks the long-awaited start to the 2020 Men’s domestic season that many Kent Cricket fans have been waiting for.

“The players and coaching team have been working exceptionally hard to ensure they are ready for the start of the season and we are looking forward to returning competitive action.

“Three months ago, we were concerned that we might not have any season at all, so this is good news for our members and supporters.

“I understand why some fans will be disappointed that the season, for now, remains behind closed doors, but the safety of the players, staff, members and supporters has to remain our priority.

“To ensure Kent supporters are able to follow the action, we have developed an enhanced live stream solution that will incorporate BBC Radio Kent’s commentary.

“This will be available for all of Kent’s non-televised home fixtures and will be accessible through our website. We hope as many of our members and supporters will join us on-line and watch Kent take to the field once again.

“Coupled with the recent announcement that some of Kent Women’s players will be involved in the newly formed Women’s regional competition this summer, it is good to see cricket coming back.”

ECB Chief Executive Officer, Tom Harrison, said: “There has been a strong determination across the game to play men’s and women’s domestic cricket his summer and the fact that we will owes to the significant work and collaboration across the county network.

“The efforts to deliver a new one-off men’s and women’s competition, in addition to a shortened Vitality Blast, to meet the unprecedented requirements of playing professional cricket during a pandemic have been remarkable.

“It will be a fitting reward for all that work, and for the patience of all county cricket fans, when the first ball is bowled in the Bob Willis Trophy next Saturday. To have this year’s first-class competition named in Bob’s honour is a perfect gesture to a great man who is sorely missed.

“I am pleased that we have been able to schedule women’s domestic cricket and ensure competitive cricket following last month’s confirmation of the first cohort of players on Regional Retainer contracts.

“We will need to remain agile to the challenges that will await us during the shortened domestic season with the health and wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and fans continuing to be our first priority.”

The domestic competitions will be staged under strict health and safety protocols with the Bob Willis Trophy also set to feature ECB Board-approved changes to playing conditions to help ensure the wellbeing of players, most significantly fast bowlers, following the long lay-off due to COVID-19.

The playing conditions have been put in place following extensive medical research and in collaboration with the First-Class Counties and the Professional Cricketers’ Association, and include:

  • A reduction from a minimum of 96 overs to a minimum of 90 overs in a day’s play.
  • Each county’s first innings of a match can last no longer than 120 overs
  • The follow-on will increase from 150 to 200 runs
  • The new ball will be available after 90 overs rather than 80 overs

Performance Cricket Committee Chair, Sir Andrew Strauss, said: “For all fans of the county game, it is fantastic news that domestic cricket will get underway at the start of August.

“It goes without saying that everyone wants to see competitive red and white ball cricket but in these unprecedented times it is crucially important that we recognise that the fitness and wellbeing of players is the top priority after a long lay-off period.

“Following appropriate medical consideration these measures have been put in place for the Bob Willis Trophy to help to protect players from the risk of long-term injury and any impact that could have on their careers.”

Bob Willis’ name will adorn the one-off men’s red-ball tournament after his former England team-mate, and close friend, Sir Ian Botham proposed the idea as a tribute following his death in December last year at the age of 70.

Willis claimed a then record 325 wickets, from 90 Test caps, during an international career which was highlighted by his fierce determination – most significantly against Australia at Emerald Headingley in 1981 – and an endearing persona than won him admirers across the world.