The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has today (Wednesday) confirmed that this summer’s shortened domestic season will culminate with T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston on October 3, while Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has been forced to postpone plans to launch a franchise-based T20 league.
The fixture schedules for the Blast and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy were published today, with the final of the new women’s 50-over competition to be staged on September 26. A third piece of domestic silverware will also be on offer during the final week of the season with the five-day Bob Willis Trophy final scheduled to be held at Lord’s from September 23.
The Blast will begin on August 27 with defending champions Essex Eagles at home to Middlesex at the Cloudfm County Ground in Chelmsford. Yorkshire Vikings will host Notts Outlaws at Emerald Headingley on the opening night as the first of 10 group-stage matches that will be televised by Sky.
The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy will begin two days later with all eight teams to play twice over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The special-edition competition has been created for this summer only to ensure women’s domestic cricket is played despite the challenges of COVID-19.
The Blast has been regionalised into the same three groups currently used in the Bob Willis Trophy with each county set to play 10 group-stage matches behind closed doors. The quarter-finals will all be played on October 1.
The scheduling of Finals Day, a month later than the originally scheduled date of September 5, leaves open the prospect that it could be held with fans in attendance. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last month that, due to an escalation in the COVID-19 threat, plans to allow fans to attend sports events were being postponed until October 1.
ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, said: “The fact we’ve been able to get so much domestic cricket played this summer owes to the collaborative efforts of the county network and their willingness to find a way to get the game on in the safest way possible for all involved. There will be many more challenges ahead, but the unity and spirit shown during this summer has been a tribute to the county network as we work together to grow our sport.”
Meanwhile, SLC has announced that the Lanka Premier League (LPL), which was scheduled to debut from August 28 to September 20, has been postponed to November. The decision was taken by SLC in consideration of the health guidelines stipulated by the Ministry of Health.
Sri Lanka has seen success in containing COVID-19, recording fewer official deaths than New Zealand, but this has been down to strict quarantine measures. These would have involved overseas arrivals for the LPL having to go into a fortnight’s quarantine period.
“We’re not the experts, so we had to go with what the health ministry is telling us,” SLC vice-president Ravin Wickramaratne told ESPNcricinfo. “There’s a window from November 20 to December 12, so that is what we are planning.”
These dates would avoid a clash with the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is now set to take place in the United Arab Emirates from September 19 to November 10.