The newly formed Royal London One-Day Cup begins this weekend as the counties take a break from the County Championship. With the T20 Blast group stages also coming to a close this week the ECB have scheduled this weekend to be the time for the launch of their new 50-over competition.
The Royal London Cup replaces the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition which ran from 2010 to 2013. Many see this change as a wise move by the ECB as the new format will mirror one-day international cricket and will hopefully help develop England players for this version of the game.
This new competition, aside from the obvious change in the number of overs, is only open to the first-class counties, unlike the previous YB40 which included the national teams of Scotland and the Netherlands as well as the Unicorns.
There will also be two groups consisting of nine teams each with the top four from each group progressing through to the quarter-finals. Counties are also looking to play more games away from their usual home grounds, if possible, to open up the game to more supporters. For instance this weekend there are games scheduled to be played at Cheltenham, Horsham and Guildford. The ECB and Royal London hope that the scheduling of matches during the school summer holidays, and ticket give-aways, will attract
youngsters to the games.
The first weekend of matches throws up some tantalising ties. Saturday sees Lancashire take on Yorkshire in Group A at Old Trafford in a day/night game, in what will be another must-see Roses clash, whilst last year's YB40 runners-up Glamorgan take on Middlesex in Cardiff, in Group B.
Sunday is the day when the majority of games are being played over the weekend with Nottinghamshire, last year's YB40 champions, taking on Sussex at Horsham, whilst Leicestershire and Derbyshire do battle at Leicester in a Midlands derby .
Each side will play eight group games before the knock-out stages, with the competition ending on Saturday the 20th September at Lords as the two finalists compete in a typical end of season finale.
The full fixtures for the first weekend of the Royal London Cup
Saturday 26th July
Group A - Derbyshire v Hampshire
Group B - Glamorgan v Middlesex
Group A - Lancashire v Yorkshire
Sunday 27th July
Group A - Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire
Group A - Leicestershire v Derbyshire
Group B - Middlesex v Warwickshire
Group B - Somerset v Durham
Group B - Sussex v Nottinghamshire
Group B - Worcestershire v Essex
Group B - Surrey v Glamorgan
Group A - Lancashire v Hampshire