County cricket will make its earliest ever start in 2012 following the announcement by the England and Wales Cricket Board of next season’s fixture schedule. The first round of first-class games start on Saturday March 31 with a series of matches involving the MCC Universities teams against county opposition.
As the list below shows, the start of the domestic first-class season has steadily moved forward in the course of the last fifty years from the end of April towards the first week of the month. Now in 2012, it will break entirely new ground by moving into the end of March.
Season Date of opening first-class match
2012 March 31
2002 April 13
1992 April 13
1982 April 21
1972 April 22
1962 April 28
1952 April 30
As far as the LV=County Championship is concerned, the first batch of matches will commence on Thursday April 5, also surpassing the previous earliest starting date of April 8 set last summer.
By the end of May – one of the traditional yardsticks for early season form – most county teams will have completed half of their programme in the four-day competition. This means that the achievement of scoring 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May could be very much ‘on’ if a batsman enjoys a decent purple patch and if the weather, as it did in 2011 and 2010, remains fair in the early part of the season.
If April and May are again largely dry, somebody could emulate the historically rare feat achieved by the likes of Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and WG Grace and most recently registered in 1988 by Worcestershire’s Graeme Hick.
*To view the 2012 county fixtures, go to http://stats.thecricketer.com/Seasons/2012.html