There's nothing like a bit of competition to light the fires under a well established business. For decades, Sky Sports has been pretty much the only game in town to see the biggest and best competitions, and earned the subscription fees of hundreds of thousands in the process. Then, almost out of nowhere, came BT Sport, who won themselves a share of the Premier League football rights and very quickly went about building a legitimate competitor to the bigger, Murdoch backed sports channel.
That new channel exposed some significant flaws in Sky Sport's broadcasting, and highlighted the channel's total reliance on broadcasting Premier League football games. Over the last couple of years though, Sky have set about addressing these problems, vastly increasing the amount of tennis, golf and women's sports across their range of channels, as well as launching a dedicated F1 channel. One area where Sky haven't truly addressed though is cricket, one of the most popular sports in the country. Traditionally, Sky cover the big international series, but very little else. That's caused some complaints on the Sky staff number and quite a bit of awkwardness for Sky, who haven't really had a good excuse.
That all changes today though, as Sky have announced that they'll be showing 50 county matches a year, as well as all three domestic competitions; the NatWest T20 Blast, the Royal London One-Day Cup and the LV County Championship. That means that across the year, we'll see every team play, with the action starting on the 15th of May as champions Birmingham Bears (pictured) face Notts Outlaws in the NatWest T20 Blast.
All the top talent from the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup will be playing domestic cricket this season, including several members of the ICC team of the tournament. Viewers will be able treat with in-form stars like Brendon McCullum (Birmingham Bears) and Glenn Maxwell (Yorkshire Vikings) alongside heavy hitters like Chris Gayle (Somerset), Kumar Sangakkara (Surrey) and Shahid Afridi (Northamptonshire Steelbacks) live on Sky Sports throughout the summer.
The first county game will be between Yorkshire Vikings and Lancashire Lightning as they play in Headingley, on the same day as the England squad will be available to play in the NatWest T20 Blast. On Finals Day (Saturday 29 August), Sky Sports will show all three games as the champions of the competition are crowned.
On top of all that, viewers will also be able to watch the IPL, England's tour of the West Indies, the series against New Zealand, The Ashes, the Women's Ashes and the One-Day International against Ireland. That's a schedule which could make any cricket fan tremble with excitement, and that's exactly what Sky want; after years of not showing cricket fans the respect they deserve, they're making up for lost time.
Bryan Henderson, Sky Sports executive producer for cricket, said: “This season you can catch the best of the domestic cricket action on Sky Sports with every county, all three competitions and 50 live games. With a host of stars from the World Cup having joined county teams, there’ll be lots of big hitting and quality domestic cricket live on Sky this summer.”
So, whether your passion for cricket is at the local level or only ignited when your nation takes up to bat, Sky Sports wants to be the place where you take in all the action.
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