By Charles Randall
29 November 2011
There will be a new first class cricket venue in England next summer. The county fixture list, released by the ECB today, shows that Weetwood Playing Fields in Leeds has been awarded this enhanced status for a three-day match in May.
The manicured Leeds University ground, roughly a mile from Yorkshire's headquarters at Headingley Carnegie, has already been used by the Leeds/Bradford combined side against county opposition, but the difference in 2012 is that the students have been awarded first class status along with Cardiff.
Leeds/Bradford start their new-level life with a three-dayer against Surrey at the Kia Oval on March 31-April 2, and Weetwood joins a long list of past and present first class outgrounds on May 1-3, when Sussex will be the visitors. As Yorkshire start their home LV Championship match against Leicestershire down the Otley Road on May 2, there is likely to be two days of first class cricket in close proximity. Very unusual.
Clubs grounds will continue to provide a good day out at county championship cricket, especially in the south. Uxbridge CC host two Middlesex four-dayers -- against Nottinghamshire in July and Warwickshire in August -- and Guildford CC will be welcoming the champions Lancashire in July. The cricket is enhanced by the tremendous effort that club members usually make for spectators. Other excellent venues will be the familiar names of Colchester & East Essex CC, Horsham CC, Tunbridge Wells CC, Chesterfield CC, Colwyn Bay CC, Swansea CC, Aigburth CC and Scarborough CC. Non-club grounds include universities, Arundel Castle and Cheltenham College, though not Whitgift School next summer. Arundel boasts sylvan surroundings and almost limitless parking.
The net is not spread much wider for one-day games. Richmond CC, hosting Middlesex, plus Uxbridge and Scarborough again take on a Twenty20 game, but these three clubs are exceptions. Counties are switching Twenty20 back to headquarters to maximise revenue, and experiments such as Milton Keynes seem to have stopped.
Cricket followers rarely regret a day at county cricket, but care should be taken with Lord's. They will find Olympic archery has halted all cricket from 2 July until 16 August.