By Shane Dell 07/04/08
Itís good news all the way for Englands cricket tragics as the 2005 England summer of cricket officially launches at Lordís on Friday 8th April when the MCC take on Warwickshire.
There will be 77 days of International cricket and fans will have plenty of opportunity to get their fair share of leather and willow with matches and series including:
∑ The npower Test Series against Bangladesh
Undoubtedly the major highlight of the season will be when the touring Australians arrive to defend their Ashes title against an all improved England side whose fans believe they have what it takes this time around to topple the Australian Juggernaut.
David Collier, the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, said: ĎThis is a huge year for cricket and an opportunity for the sport to engage the whole nation either at local level or through the national fever that will undoubtedly build up around this Ashes summer.í
The mouth-watering international schedule has led to an unprecedented demand for tickets with all the five npower Ashes Test matches already sell-outs, as is the NatWest Challenge against Australia and England v Australia games in the NatWest Series.
Demand for npower Ashes tickets has been so huge that many of the grounds could have been sold out twice over as more than 250,000 applications were unsuccessful.
There are still some tickets available for the two npower Tests against Bangladesh, who make their Lordís debut on May 26-30 and also for the second Test at Durham between June 3-7 and for some NatWest Series games.
This international fixture list is also supported by 840 days of domestic cricket in which some of the biggest international names will be appearing. This year both Stephen Fleming, New Zealandís captain (Nottinghamshire) and South Africaís captain Graeme Smith (Somerset) will be playing in the county competitions as will Australiaís Shane Warne (Hampshire) and Pakistanís speedster Shoaib Akhtar (Worcestershire).
The traditional season curtain raiser starts at Lordís tomorrow between the reigning Frizzell County Champions Warwickshire and the MCC with the Frizzell County Championship season starting on April 13, 2005.
Gloucestershire have dominated the Cheltenham & Gloucester trophy in recent years and they will face Berkshire when the premier knock out competition resumes on May 3. Denmark, Holland and Ireland will all face first class opposition in a tournament that is introducing coloured clothing and white balls this year.
The success of Twenty20 is demonstrated by an expanded group stage of 79 matches - which guarantees every County four home Twenty20 matches - in a six week cricketing carnival that leads to a floodlit final at The Brit Oval on July 30.
In totesport League action Middlesex Crusaders, Worcestershire Royals and Nottinghamshire Outlaws are promoted to Division One where Glamorganís Dragons aim to maintain their dominance. This season 33 matches will be played under lights.
Englandís women will also face an Australian challenge this summer. Having been beaten by Australia in the Womenís World Cup semi final this week, there is a chance for revenge in a two-match npower womenís Test series and five one day internationals in the NatWest Womenís Series.
The womenís series will culminate with a NatWest womenís international Twenty20 match in Taunton on Sept 2.
Friday 8 April MCC v Warwickshire at Lordís
Sunday 17 April Totesport League starts
Tuesday 3 May Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy resumes
Thurs 26 May npower Test Series, England v Bangledesh, starts at Lordís
Mon 13 June NatWest International Twenty20 match, Eng v Aus, Rose Bowl
Thurs 16 June NatWest Series starts
Wed 22 June Twenty20 group phase starts
Saturday 2 July NatWest Series Final
Tues 7 Ė Tue 12 July NatWest Challenge, England v Australia (3 ODIís)
Mon 18 July Twenty20 Quarter-Finals
Thurs 21 July npower Ashes Test Series starts at Lordís
Sat 30 July Twenty20 Finals Day, The Brit Oval
Sat 20 August Cheltenham & Gloucester Semi-Finals
Sat 3 September Cheltenham & Gloucester Final, Lordís
Thurs 8-12 Sept Final npower Ashes Test match at The Brit Oval
Wed 21 Sept Last round of Frizzell County Championship matches
Sun 25 Sept Final totesport League matches