ECB move May Test matches
The ECB has ditched the May Test matches which have been a part of the English summer since 2000 by shifting the two-match series against Sri Lanka next year to June with the T20 and ODIs being played beforehand.
Playing Sri Lanka's Tests in mid-June should help avoid problems of clashing with the IPL, which has created availability issues with some players not arriving until shortly before the first Test, and also opens up the chance for England players such as Kevin Pietersen to have a longer stint at the tournament.
This would have been a tougher proposition had England been obliged to play three Tests, as originally suggested by the Future Tours Programme. However, as Sri Lanka Cricket trimmed the home series against England to two Tests, in order to have Sri Lanka players available for the entire 2012 IPL, the ECB is no longer bound to provide more than two Tests on the reciprocal tour.
Last time Sri Lanka visited, in 2011, five players including Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene missed one of the two warm-up matches due to IPL commitments and the same situation occurred with New Zealand this year when Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor arrived late.
The IPL will start later next year, due to the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, but is likely to be concluded by early June although it means that the Twenty20 and ODI series of Sri Lanka's visit will face the scheduling clash and subsequent player availability issues. However, if this type of schedule is maintained in future years it may open up a clear window for the IPL.
For next year it means England will have a run of seven Tests in little more than two months next summer with the five-match series against India beginning in early July.
Touring teams have struggled to adapt to conditions for May Test matches in England; the only team to win a Test in May (and even that began on May 31) was Pakistan in 2001. England have only lost one other match in their early-season Test series, first introduced against Zimbabwe in 2000, when Sri Lanka levelled the 2006 series at Trent Bridge.