Champions Lancashire keep faith in ‘fortress Aigburth’

Lancashire will begin their first defence of the County Championship title since 1935 with a repeat of the fixture that launched their triumphant 2011 campaign, against Sussex at Aigburth in April.

That is one of four Championship matches that will be played in the Liverpool suburb which became such a fortress for Glen Chapple’s team last season. Warwickshire and Somerset will also make repeat visits in April and August, and in late May promoted Middlesex will make their first trip to Aigburth since 1984.

But there will be no games next year at Blackpool or Southport, each of which staged one Championship fixture in 2011. Lancashire will play their other four home matches at Old Trafford, as required by the England and Wales Cricket Board to prove the quality of the pitches on the realigned square ahead of the Ashes Test at the ground in 2013.

The game against Nottinghamshire starting on May 2 will therefore be the first Championship match, and first-class fixture, played on the realigned square – and will also be the first senior action at Old Trafford next summer, allowing a little extra time for the substantial redevelopment of the ground that is already well underway before all Lancashire’s home fixtures in the Clydesdale Bank 40 and Friends Life t20 competitions are played there between May and August.

The other Championship matches in Manchester will be against Worcestershire in June and Lancashire’s last two home fixtures of the season against Durham in late August and Surrey in September.

The county will break new ground in 2012 with a trip to Abu Dhabi in March for the traditional season-opener between the champions and the MCC, and then a first-ever game in the Netherlands in the CB40 on May 28 – with the return fixture at Old Trafford in August.

Four of Lancashire’s five home t20 games will start at 7pm under the permanent floodlights that were installed earlier this year at Old Trafford, including the game against Yorkshire on Friday July 6 that will be the only home Roses fixture of the season because the counties are now in different divisions in the Championship.

Mike Watkinson, Lancashire’s cricket director, said: “We worked the fixtures around the ongoing construction programme at Old Trafford and we are delighted to bring Championship cricket back after a season’s absence.

“Prior to 2011 we made a significant investment in Liverpool Cricket Club as we improved the player facilities and also upgraded the pitches. It therefore makes sense for us to continue to play our outground games at Liverpool for another year and, due to the construction works at Old Trafford, Liverpool is best-equipped to take the early-season games.

“It is also worth noting that Liverpool was voted runner-up in the ECB outground awards at the recent presentation evening in Birmingham, which further supports the allocation of games there.”

*To view the 2012 county fixtures please go to: http://stats.thecricketer.com/Seasons/2012.html

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