Ex-England captain Alastair Cook and Essex will start the red-ball season against Kent on 1 August

The first fixtures of the truncated 2020 county cricket season, which will start on 1 August, have been released.

Counties have been split into three regions and will play five games in a shortened first-class tournament, named in honour of ex-England fast bowler Bob Willis, who died in December.

Essex, first-class county champions in 2019, will start against Kent.

Durham will host Yorkshire in their openers, while Derbyshire take on East Midlands rivals Nottinghamshire.

As well as the Bob Willis Trophy, there will also be a shortened T20 Blast competition beginning on 27 August, for which fixtures will be announced next month.

The county season was scheduled to begin in April but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A one-off women’s domestic 50-over competition will also be staged this summer, featuring the eight new elite women’s regional teams.

The women’s event will be divided into two regional groups of four, with the group winners meeting in a final, but their fixtures will not be revealed until August.

In the Bob Willis Trophy, the two group winners with the most points will meet in a five-day final, although the date and venue are yet to be confirmed.

Results in the Bob Willis Trophy will not dictate which divisions counties play in next summer, with no relegation or promotion this year.

With England making use of bio-secure venues at Southampton and Derby for its men’s and women’s international fixtures respectively, Hampshire will play their two home games at Arundel in Sussex, while Derbyshire’s two “home” matches – against Nottinghamshire and Durham – will be staged at the away team’s ground.

Lancashire, whose Emirates Old Trafford headquarters is also being used by England, have one home game there and one at Liverpool.

Playing conditions for the Bob Willis Trophy

In light of the shortened fixture list, eight points will be awarded for drawn matches, up from the current five points, while all other scoring remains unchanged.

In a bid to reduce injury risk, there will be a minimum of 90 overs of play each day, down from 96.

First innings can last no more than 120 overs per side, while the follow-on has been increased from 150 to 200 runs.

The new ball will be available after 90 overs, 10 overs later than normal.

Men’s opening fixtures (all 1 August):

Central group: Gloucestershire v Worcestershire (Bristol); Somerset v Glamorgan (Taunton); Warwickshire v Northamptonshire (Edgbaston)

North group: Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire (Trent Bridge); Durham v Yorkshire (Chester-le-Street); Leicestershire v Lancashire (venue tbc)

South group: Essex v Kent (Chelmsford): Surrey v Middlesex (The Oval); Sussex v Hampshire (Hove)

Former England captain Sir Andrew Strauss, performance cricket committee chairman, said: “For all fans of the county game, it is fantastic news that domestic cricket will get under way at the start of August.

“It goes without saying that everyone wants to see competitive red- and white-ball cricket but in these unprecedented times it is crucially important that we recognise that the fitness and wellbeing of players is the top priority after a long lay-off period.

“Following appropriate medical consideration these measures have been put in place for the Bob Willis Trophy to help to protect players from the risk of long-term injury and any impact that could have on their careers.”

Willis, who played for Surrey and Warwickshire at county level, took 325 wickets in 90 Tests for England, and also captained his country.

The idea to name the tournament after him was put forward by Sir Ian Botham, his former international team-mate.

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