September 12, 2003

Earliest start yet for New Zealand in England Tests

Never, in their previous 13 Test tours of England, have New Zealand been asked to play a Test earlier than the May 20 date assigned to their first Test, at Lord's next year. The closest was in 1965 when the first Test started a week later on May 27.

It is an indication of how crowded the international calendar has become that the scheduling has been so squeezed. The England players cannot claim to have any real advantage as a result of the programming - they will have had barely a fortnight to get over their West Indies tour.

New Zealand will have had a six-week break from their home series against South Africa after their own arduous summer. The three Tests in the series will be completed by June 14.

Then on June 24, the one-day tri-series with England and the West Indies will begin with a day-night match at Old Trafford. The final of that series will be played on July 10.

New Zealand will then return home, before going back to England in September for the ICC Champions' Trophy tournament which starts on September 8. The final will be played on September 25.

The England tour dates are:

npower Test Series v New Zealand

Thu 20 - Mon 24 May, 1st Test, Lord's; Thu 3 - Mon 7 June, 2nd Test, Headingley; Thu 10 - Mon 14 June, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge.

The NatWest Series

Thu 24 June, Eng v NZ (d/n), Old Trafford; Sat 26 June, NZ v WI, Edgbaston; Sun 27 June, Eng v WI, Trent Bridge; Tue 29 June, Eng v NZ (d/n), Chester-le-Street; Thu 1 July, Eng v WI (d/n), Headingley*; Sat 3 July, NZ v WI, Cardiff; Sun 4 July, Eng v NZ, Bristol; Tue 6 July, Eng v WI, Lord's; Thu 8 July, NZ v WI, Southampton; Sat 10 July, Final, Lord's; Sun 11 July, Reserve day.