The 2010 English domestic season will open in Abu Dhabi under floodlights and with pink balls. County champions Durham will take on MCC in a four-day match at the Zayed Cricket Stadium from March 29. Lord's traditionally hosts English first-class cricket's curtain-raiser but the move to the United Arab Emirates means an unseasonably early start to the summer. "Ultimately, this match is being played in Abu Dhabi for two reasons," explained the MCC head of cricket John Stephenson. "Firstly, we felt that the proposed fixture schedule for Lord's (3rd-5th 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. 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 corresponding 2009 fixture included Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell among eight full internationals - but the 2010 version is likely to accommodate some of the best UAE talent. "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 the Durham 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." Meanwhile, an England and Wales Cricket Board meeting has approved a change in the points system for the 2010 LV= County Championship season. Sixteen 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 while use of the heavy roller is now outlawed once play has commenced. The changes have been made in a bid to increase attacking intent. * PA Sport