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Abu Dhabi to host MCC & Durham in March with pink ball

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium
England practised last December at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium

The MCC's annual season curtain-raiser against the county champions will be played in Abu Dhabi under floodlights, and with a pink ball, from 29 March.

The four-day match with Durham at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium is part of an MCC drive to generate new cricket fans.

MCC head of cricket John Stephenson said: "If this match is a success, it could help reinvigorate Test cricket.

"We have an opportunity to play our part for the good of the game and we're determined to grasp it."

Durham director of cricket Geoff Cook admitted: "We were a bit undecided about a pre-season tour and this has provided an opportunity to get involved with a match that is historic.

"I know the MCC is trying to get a presence in the Middle East, in terms of cricket and the burgeoning game in Dubai and that sort of area.

"One or two things are fitting in quite nicely and hopefully it'll be the launch-pad for another successful season," he told BBC Radio Newcastle.


Lord's has traditionally hosted the county opener between the MCC and the champions since 1902.

The MCC team is generally made up of younger players close to national selection, but the match has struggled to achieve huge support because of the weather and the flat pitches.

For the past three years, a handful of English counties have started to compete in pre-season warm-ups in Abu Dhabi and neighbouring grounds in the Emirates.

And opting for the United Arab Emirates means an earlier start on the cricket calendar.

"Ultimately, this match is being played in Abu Dhabi for two reasons," added the MCC's Stephenson.

"Firstly, we felt that the proposed fixture schedule for Lord's (3-5 April) 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."

Pink-ball trials have continued since the winter of 2007-08 and the MCC is keen to use them under lights in the May 2010 Lord's Test against Bangladesh, in what could be cricket's first day-night Test.

It's something that cricket is trying to introduce and it's brilliant that Durham are in a position where we can be involved in this trial game

Durham director of cricket Geoff Cook on the use of pink balls

Durham themselves refused a request to use them in last season's final Championship game against Worcestershire - after they had won the title.

"The game against Worcester was an important game," said Cook. "At the end of the season, we wanted to make sure we had a chance of finishing unbeaten.

"And that would have been a distraction, altering the rules.

"But this is a one-off game. It's something that cricket in general is trying to introduce and it's brilliant that Durham, a young county, are in a position where we can be involved in this trial game."

Not every county is in support of the pink ball but MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw told BBC Radio 5 live last month that it was time to experiment.

"We have a pink ball ready for trialling which will hopefully last beyond 50 overs and behave as a red ball would in Test matches," he said.

Regarding the clash in the desert next spring, Bradshaw added: "We believe the match would be a terrific basis to form an opinion of whether day-night Test cricket with a pink ball is possible."

Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board has approved a change in the points system for next season in a bid to encourage attacking play.

Sixteen points (up from 14) will be awarded for a win and just three for a draw (down from four) in 2010, while bonus points will only be available in the first 110 overs of each first innings, rather than 120 - and use of the heavy roller will be banned after a match commences.

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see also
Abu Dhabi keen to host MCC match
05 Nov 09 |  Cricket
MCC calls for Test championship
14 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Adams not convinced by pink ball
04 Sep 08 |  Hampshire
Pink ball makes debut at Lord's
21 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Pink balls set for one-day trials
13 Nov 07 |  Cricket
Pretty in pink
17 Apr 08 |  Sport Homepage

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