By David Williams
Glamorgan director of cricket Mark Wallace believes his players have been given extra motivation ahead of next season by the prospect of winning a County Championship title.
Even though the Welsh county have been firmly rooted in Division Two for the past 15 years, a revamp in the tournament structure next summer has given all 18 counties a route to the top prize.
The new fixture list, announced today, reflects uncertainty at what restrictions will be in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. So, in 2021 the counties have been initially split into three seeded conferences of six, playing each side within their group home and away.
The opening nine rounds are scheduled to take place on consecutive weeks, with Thursday starts and Sunday finishes, and is set to conclude in July before groups are sorted into three performance-related divisions.
After another four matches, with the opening round scheduled to begin on August 30 – a Bank Holiday Monday – the table-toppers of Division One will be crowned county champions.
They will then play the runners-up in a showpiece Lord’s final for the Bob Willis Trophy, starting on September 27. If that fixture lasts all five days then the first-class season is scheduled to finish on October 1.
Wallace, said: “Seeing the fixtures come out as a player was always an exciting time and gives you extra energy in training knowing that next summer is rapidly approaching.
“We’re really looking forward to a challenging group, with some four ‘first division’ sides in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Kent, and Northamptonshire, and Sussex have given us some great games over recent years.
“The players can’t wait to get stuck into the season and take on some of the best teams and players on the county circuit, it’s a great chance to challenge yourself and the squad is excited to have a chance at two first-class titles in 2021.
“Being able to win the top prize is an incredible motivator across the lub and we are champing at the bit to get started.”
Glamorgan begin their campaign at Headingley against 33-times champions Yorkshire. They will finish the group stage at Sophia Gardens when they take on Northamptonshire, with the final group stage game beginning on Sunday, 11th July.
The divisional stage will then run from Monday, 30th August to Friday, 24th September.
The centre piece of the group stage for Glamorgan will be the visit of Yorkshire to Sophia Gardens on Thursday, 13th May, with a trip to Old Trafford to face Lancashire the week before.
The established two-division championship, which was won by Essex in 2019, was last year replaced by the Bob Willis Trophy after the domestic season was put on hold for four months because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Comprising of three regional divisions and a five-day final at Lord’s, Essex again came out on top following a draw with Somerset, whose wait for a first-class title continues.
Neil Snowball, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s managing director for county cricket, said: “We’re all looking forward to the return of the County Championship in 2021 after a very challenging year in 2020.
“We have seen an innovative and collaborative approach between the ECB and the 18 first-class counties that has enabled us to plan for 2021 with a new, County Championship structure for 2021 only, that is designed to be both exciting for players and supporters and also flexible to the possible ongoing impact of COVID-19.
“We are also working hard with all 18 first-class counties to ensure that we are able to welcome the return of crowds safely next year and will continue to work closely with Government and all relevant authorities.”
Group 1: Essex, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Durham
Group 2: Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Middlesex, Leicestershire
Group 3: Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Glamorgan, Sussex
The men’s and women’s fixtures for the domestic white-ball competitions are set to be announced early next year.
Glamorgan Championship group fixtures
8 April, Yorkshire (Headingley)
15 April, Sussex (Cardiff)
22 April, Northants (Northampton)
29 April, Kent (Cardiff)
6 May, Lancashire (Old Trafford)
13 May, Yorkshire (Cardiff)
20 May, Kent (Canterbury)
3 June, Lancashire (Home – Venue TBC)
4 July, Sussex (Hove)
11 July, Northants (Cardiff)
Play-offs: 30 August, 5, 12, 21 September
Bob Willis Trophy final: 27 September