Abu Dhabi to host English season opener

LONDON, Dec 11, 2009 (AFP): Abu Dhabi will stage the 2010 English domestic season opener between county champions Durham and the MCC under floodlights and with pink balls.

Lord's traditionally hosts the English curtain-raiser and the move to the United Arab Emirates has been prompted by a desire to play the game in a warmer climate and test out pink balls under floodlights.

The four-day match between Durham and the MCC will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium from March 29.

“Ultimately, this match is being played in Abu Dhabi for two reasons,” MCC head of cricket John Stephenson said on Friday. “Firstly, we felt that the proposed fixture schedule for Lord's (April 3-5) was far too early in the year to play meaningful cricket, with poor weather a very likely possibility.

“Secondly, we've been asking cricket authorities around the world to help us trial the pink ball under floodlights. “If this match is a success, it could help to reinvigorate Test cricket.

We have an opportunity to play our part for the good of the game and we're determined to grasp it.” The MCC team in the 2009 fixture included stars like former England captain Michael Vaughan and England batsman Ian Bell in a line-up featuring eight full internationals.

The 2010 MCC squad is likely to accommodate some of the best players from the United Arab Emirates, as well as several top English talents.

“Although it is a disappointment not to have the traditional season opener at Lord's we fully understand and support the reasons for that and are therefore honoured to have the opportunity to take part in this innovative and historic match,” Durham head coach Geoff Cook said.

“As the game of cricket generally is moving forward, the possibility of playing with pink cricket balls for the first time in a four-day match, under floodlights, is an experience that the players will be really looking forward to.”

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