Jonny Bairstow will help Welsh Fire ignite The Hundred in the tournament’s opening fixture with opponents Oval Invincibles warning of the Welsh side’s “world class” talent.
Bairstow and Jason Roy, England’s World Cup-winning opening partners, are set to go head-to-head when the controversial new tournament gets under way at The Oval on July 17.
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s domestic fixtures for 2020 have been released, with the inaugural edition of its 100-ball tournament appearing alongside the existing three formats for the first time.
The new competition is a central part of the governing body’s bid to build the sport’s fanbase but the city-based franchise model has attracted scepticism from sections of the existing support.
As such all eyes will be on the opening fixture, which pits the Oval Invincibles against Welsh Fire, with England’s hard-hitting duo of Bairstow and Roy due to be front and centre.
Tom Moody, the Oval Invincibles men’s coach, said: “We are really excited to be hosting the opening game of The Hundred. This is the first season of the competition, so it’s an historic moment for the team and cricket.
“Taking on the Welsh Fire first will be an interesting challenge as they have some world-class players. I’m confident in the strength of our squad, it will be a thrilling opener.”
The third and final one-day international against Australia takes place in Bristol 24 hours earlier and the top-order pair are among a host of big names – also including the Curran brothers, Tom Banton, Liam Plunkett and the Fire’s overseas pair Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc – who could be involved in a unique double-header.
“We want to launch The Hundred with a bang and a big crowd at The Oval on a Friday night should do that for us,” said an ECB spokesman.
🚨 THE HUNDRED 2020 FIXTURES 🚨
Oval Invincibles will take on Welsh Fire in the first ever match of the tournament!
The full schedule 👇https://t.co/MUYloNVLi2
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) November 26, 2019
The men’s hundred wraps up with a two-match finals day on August 15, while the women’s competition begins with Birmingham Phoenix against Manchester Originals at New Road on July 22 and concludes on August 14. There will be a series of double-headers featuring men’s and women’s matches back-to-back at the same grounds.
The Specsavers County Championship begins on April 12, a week later than last season, with the final round of games beginning a day earlier than 2019 on September 22. Champions Essex launch their defence in week two, hosting Yorkshire on April 19.
Glamorgan host Middlesex from Sunday, April 19 to start the season and will play six Championship matches before the Vitality Blast begins with a trip to champions Essex Eagles to start on Friday, May 29.
Glamorgan’s first home match of the Blast is against Surrey two days later with home Friday night matches against Somerset (June 12) and Gloucestershire (June 19).
The Royal London Cup will be played in the school holidays, from July 22-August 9, and starts with an away trip to Derbyshire Falcons.
The opening home match is against Surrey at Sophia Gardens on Friday, July 24 with back-to-back matches at Newport, where Yorkshire (July 31) and Nottinghamshire (August 2) will be the visitors.
Criticisms that the first-class game has been forced into the fringes of the schedule in recent years, to the detriment of both it and the Test team, have been partly addressed with championship fixtures slated in every month of the campaign, but there will be no domestic red-ball cricket between July 8 and August 23 as The Hundred dominates that prime window.
Twelve of the 15 championship rounds will include play at the weekend as part of a push to attract supporters to the flagship tournament.