Crowds of up to 1,000 have been allowed to watch Surrey’s red-ball friendly with Middlesex at The Oval, which began on Sunday

Surrey and Warwickshire have been given permission to allow in crowds of up to 2,500 for the first two days of their opening Bob Willis Trophy fixtures.

Surrey v Middlesex at The Oval and Warwickshire v Northamptonshire at Edgbaston, both starting on Saturday, have been chosen for the next phase of the pilot scheme to test government guidance on crowds returning to sport.

The first phase of reintroducing spectators began on Sunday, when 1,000 people were at The Oval for a red-ball friendly between Surrey and Middlesex.

The same social distancing measures, brought in as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, will be in place on Tuesday when Warwickshire host Worcestershire in a friendly at Edgbaston.

“We’re all excited about the start of the county cricket season,” said former Warwickshire chief executive Neil Snowball, who has just started his new role as the England and Wales Cricket Board’s director of county cricket.

“Of course we all miss not being able to go and watch as we normally would. These two pilots are an important step in testing the government guidance and ensuring we can safely open our grounds again.”

Bears chief operating officer Craig Flindall added: “We’re delighted that Warwickshire and Edgbaston are again at the forefront of innovation and that we can play a part in securing the safe return of spectators to sporting events across the country.

“We have a proven track record and have vast experience of delivering some of the biggest sporting events that have taken place in the city in recent years. Whilst we are operating at a reduced capacity, these three match dates are of equal importance to those previous events.”

Tickets are being made available to members only at both games and must be booked in advance, with both Surrey