The 2012 county fixtures have finally been announced! And it was roughly five minutes before I was vaguely cross about them. England play six Tests next summer and Lancashire are playing a Championship match during every one of them. It’s not too bad during the series against the West Indies; Lancashire are actually playing every week during that time so there is no real way to avoid conflict. But, as usual, during the midsummer gap between Test matches Lancs are only playing limited overs cricket. It’s quite frustrating. To make matters worse, during the South Africa series Lancashire aren’t playing in the gaps between the Test matches, only during the Tests themselves! And, as we already knew, our curtain raiser falls during the first Test in Sri Lanka. There is some improvement though; this year none of the matches completely overlap with a Test. There is always at least one day that does not.
For most of the counties the season starts the week after the curtain raiser. That gives a start date of 5 April, the earliest ever for the County Championship. Lancashire don’t start until the next week, playing a rematch of last season’s opener against Sussex at Aigburth. Lancs then play a match a week for the next nine weeks, meaning that once again the season will be half over by the beginning of June. Warwickshire will try to exact a measure of revenge for last season early, as they come to Aigburth on 19 April. (21 April will be a long day for me. It’s the third day of the match against Warwickshire, but also on the calendar are Bath v London Irish, Liverpool v West Brom and Royals v Blue Jays.) The first two home matches are at Aigburth and the first match at Old Trafford is against Notts on 2 May. Newly promoted Middlesex come to Liverpool on 23 May, but unfortunately our trip to Lord’s isn’t until the penultimate round of matches on 4 September. The last match of the season is at Old Trafford against Surrey, starting 11 September. We won’t be visiting the Oval this year; our match in Surrey will be at Guildford.
Overall it’s roughly what I expected. (By now I just assume that the ECB will schedule Tests at the same time as Championship matches.) The interest lies in the details, of course, and every year I enjoy going over the fixtures. The Christmas decorations are up and it is below freezing outside, but spring feels just a bit closer now.