Champion County v MCC, Abu Dhabi, 2010 December 11, 2009

MCC to stage floodlit season opener


The county champions, Durham, will play against MCC in a floodlit four-day game in Abu Dhabi next March, after it was confirmed that the traditional opening fixture of the English season would be shifted from Lord's to the Zayed International Stadium.

The match, which will be contested from March 29 to April 1 using the pink balls that MCC has been pioneering in recent seasons, was confirmed this week at an MCC Committee meeting, and according to MCC's head of cricket, John Stephenson, such a radical step could pave the way for a new future for Test cricket.

"We are delighted to confirm the MCC-Champion County match will take place in Abu Dhabi, and greatly appreciate Durham's enthusiasm and co-operation," said Stephenson. "Ultimately, this match is being played in Abu Dhabi for two reasons. 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 re-invigorate Test cricket. We have an opportunity to play our part for the good of the game and we're determined to grasp it."

The logistics of the fixture are still to be confirmed, including the hours of play and its first-class status, but MCC's chief executive, Keith Bradshaw, told Cricinfo that he would be addressing the latter issue directly with the ICC. "Give the work that we've been doing with respect to the pink ball," he said, "we feel that this is an innovative trial that needs to be undertaken to see if it is suitable for Test cricket.

"It is not a decision that we have taken lightly, and I know some MCC members and public might not agree with it," Bradshaw added. "We are not suggesting for one minute that we intend to take the Champion County fixture away from Lord's permanently, but this comes hot on the heels of our World Cricket Committee meeting in Dubai, at which we felt that a match under lights in white clothing was an innovation worth exploring."

The Zayed international cricket stadium is the home ground is the home of Abu Dhabi CC, who last month signed an agreement with MCC to become Associate Club partners. It recently hosted a series of one-day internationals between Pakistan and New Zealand.

"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," said Durham's head coach, Geoff Cook.

"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."

Cook's stance represents a significant change of heart, because as recently as September, he was outspoken in his refusal to trial the MCC's pink ball in the dead-rubber county fixture between Durham and their already-relegated opponents, Worcestershire.

"I was not keen," said Cook at the time. "It was a first-class match and I thought we should retain the game's integrity." The MCC's inability to test the pink ball in first-class conditions was the principle reason why next May's proposed day/night Test against Bangladesh had to be shelved.

MCC will select a competitive team to face Durham, with the best county, MCC University and United Arab Emirates cricketers in line for selection.

Meanwhile, an ECB meeting has approved a change in the points system for the 2010 County Championship season. In a bid to increasing attacking intent, 16 points will now be awarded for a victory and just three for a draw in 2010 - a change from the previous 14 and four.

Bonus points remain unchanged, with five for batting and three available for bowling in first innings, although they will now only be awarded for the first 110 overs. Use of the heavy roller is now outlawed once play has commenced.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sidhanta on December 14, 2009, 2:16 GMT

    Yet another trend setter well on its way

  • Valavan on December 13, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    Day night tests are really welcome, coz now most of the sub continent pitches are made flatter that fast bowlers having torrid time, here and the fielding sides are worn out, if some 2hrs is played after 1800 - 1830, the fielding team will refresh, and the evening breeze especially in NORTHERN INDIA and PAKISTAN will surely assist SWING and SEAM, so the batsman's patience are really tested. I feel there will be a great even in the game, 50 - 50 for batsmen and bowler and surely the better team with all round display will emerge victorious.

  • David on December 13, 2009, 11:54 GMT

    I am a dinosaur as far as first-class and international cricket is concerned. but unfortunately I have to move with the times. The County Champions playing the MCC in Abu Dhabi is an inevitable consequence of the ECB actively seeking to increase revenue streams at every possible opportunity. I don't mind these money-making initiatives, as long as they go towards the betterment of English cricket and its players at every level. However, as I suspect, if the money is just going towards a Kolpak/ Retired International Cricketers fund, while the counties count their profits, it will be another pointless exercise.

  • Zubair on December 12, 2009, 23:44 GMT

    Its hard to believe anymore that cricket is a gentlmen's game, Pink ball for men's game? it wouldnt suit the baller to be bowling with a pink ball in his hands! Its becoming a getlewoment's game now! lol just joking but really pink ball might work out well, but it wouldnt look good at all! If they really wanted to change the colour of the ball, they should have coloured it orange or maroon or something like that, but pink?? Just imagine Brett lee, streaming in fast, looking hot, looking handsome, running in, with a whatttt???? a pink ball???? Hahaha It might look good in the hands of Ishant Sharma, Sidebottom, or Bracken because they have long hair and you know :)

  • nick on December 12, 2009, 8:27 GMT

    Great idea to change points system.and encourage more attacking cricket. I would go further and use this simple system in 4 day cricket worldwide. Even in Test cricket in a world cup league type type structure.. 10 points for a win 2 for draw 0 for loss 1 batting pt for match scoring rate of over 3.5 an over 1 batting pt for match average average runs per wicket ratio of over 30. 1 bowling pt for taking 10 wickets in match. 1 bowling pt for taking 20 wickets in the match 1 bonus pt for coming within 2 wickets or 20 runs of winning in drawn or lost game. Nick Cox

  • Bob on December 12, 2009, 8:20 GMT

    Just one point, there have been at least two floodlit first-class matches before about 12 years ago in Melbourne. Orange balls were used, and it couldn't have been too difficult for batting - Dean Jones made 324 in one.

  • vishal on December 11, 2009, 22:30 GMT

    this point system adopted for English county championship is excellent..hope BCCI also does something similar for Ranji trophy where the point system is the most encourages batsmen to play forever looking for first innings leads..leading to dullest drawn games one would ever see

  • Ali on December 11, 2009, 21:27 GMT

    The idea of day/night Test matches is that it will draw more crowds because it's going to be after office hours, so naturally more people are going to come to watch. Along with this, if sporting wickets are prepared, Test matches WILL survive. As peeeeet says, there could then also be a Test Championship. Day/Night Tests should work. Can't wait till they get implemented!

  • Richard on December 11, 2009, 18:53 GMT

    Well done MCC. Doing your bit for global warming then ?!! Flying 7000 miles AND using floodlights too. I'm no green zealot.. but why is this necessary? Looks like a "jolly" to me.

  • Daud on December 11, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    I totally agree with peeeeet. It makes no sense staging fruitless 2 test match series. Instead i would go as far enough to say that one test per tour with remaining ODIs and T20s should be held. 3 or 5 test match series would be allowed if the tour is reserved as a test tour only i.e. no ODIs or T20s for that particular tour. This would mean only the best sides would be brave enough to go for test tours. This type of a system would act as an automatic filter at international level. Feel free to criticize!

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