With Joe Root newly installed as England Test cricket captain and all-rounder Ben Stokes recently becoming the most expensive overseas player in the Indian Premier League’s history at £1.7 million – all that’s left is for the English summer to get underway!
England cricket’s 2017 home schedule spans 149 days, and as it features both their earliest start and latest finish to a summer, hopefully someone at the ECB has struck a deal with the weather Gods. With the UK seasons seemingly being shunted backwards year on year, one can sadly expect a disproportionate amount of drawn games in the early rounds of the County Championship.
England’s first games of the domestic season will be two one-day internationals against Ireland which will mark the first time the teams have met in England. The three Lions’ skipper in the shorter formats, Eoin Morgan, was born and raised in Dublin, an upbringing that ensures the occasion will be particularly emotional for him.
Three more ODIs with South Africa follow, before the ICC Champions Trophy which will see eight nations play 15 games from June 1-18 at The Oval, Edgbaston and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. England have been handed a tough draw in Group A alongside Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
The summer Test matches will not begin until July 6, but they make up for lost time by encompassing seven games in 67 days against South Africa and West Indies. The Proteas currently sit third in the ICC rankings, one place above England and the four Test series will give a true indication of Root’s credentials as national captain. No one doubts his quality as a batsman, but equally no one can yet judge his capabilities as a captain.
The County Championship will feature ‘pink ball’ cricket for the first time its history in 2017 with a round of day-night fixtures starting on June 26. All England players are expected to be made available for their respective counties for the nine floodlit games.
The matches will give England players the chance to prepare for the first day-night Test in this country, against West Indies at Edgbaston, beginning on August 17. Pink balls have only been in use in cricket since December last year when they made their debut in a match between Australia and Pakistan at the Gabba in Brisbane.
There is a complex and highly secretive process behind producing pink leather for cricket balls. What is not secretive however is that the hides sourced to produce the balls are a direct result from beef production. The fact that the sport is using a by-product from beef production and turning it into cricket ball leather can only be good news.
This summer’s County Championship will feature eight teams in Division One and 10 in Division Two, instead of the nine-nine split of previous years. Reigning champions Middlesex, whose last-gasp victory of 2016 will live long in the memory, begin the defence of their first County Championship win since 1993 by travelling to the Ageas Bowl to take on Hampshire.
Surrey suffered a poor start to the 2016 season under new head coach Michael Di Venuto but ended the season strongly, finishing in mid-table. They host Warwickshire at the Kia Oval in their opening fixture of the Specsavers County Championship on April 7.