Gidman to captain MCC in Abu Dhabi

Lv County Championship

James Foster, Michael Di Venuto & Stephen Moore

James Foster, seen here keeping wicket in last season's rain-hit match, earns a call-up by the MCC for the third successive year

Alex Gidman will captain a strong MCC side against LV= County Champions Durham in the domestic season curtain-raiser, to be played in Abu Dhabi for the first time.

The traditional four-day match, which takes place from March 29 to April 1, will be played away from Lord’s for the first time, and under floodlights, with pink cricket balls and white clothing.

Though MCC has trialled pink balls for the last two seasons, this game at the Sheikh Zayed International Stadium will mark the new leather's first-class debut.

The MCC XI features three England Test players - Mark Ramprakash, Chris Tremlett and James Foster, who is named in the side for the third successive year.

There are also places for Leicestershire batsman James Taylor and Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn, both involved in this winter’s England Performance Programme in South Africa.

Northamptonshire batsman David Sales, who missed the entire 2009 season with a knee injury, is also handed a spot.

John Stephenson, MCC head of cricket and manager of the MCC team to face Durham, said: "This is a traditional fixture, but there’s little else about this match that is traditional.

"It’s not just a contest between MCC and the champion county, but a crucial step in researching the pink ball and first-class cricket under floodlights.

"We’re very pleased to be fielding an extremely talented MCC team in what will undoubtedly be a tough test against the strongest county in England.

"From speaking to our players in recent weeks, it’s clear there is a passion to play in this game; not only so they can kick-start their season but because they feel they can contribute to our wider research for the good of the game.

"We’re really looking forward to the match."

Gidman said: "I was delighted to be invited to play in this match, and to be asked to captain is a huge privilege.

"My family have strong ties with MCC, and both myself and my brother Will spent time as MCC Young Cricketers, so I cannot wait to lead out the MCC team in such an historic fixture.

"Using pink balls under lights in a four-day, first-class match promises to be a very interesting experiment and certainly something that every player will be looking forward to being a part of."

Last season's match between the same two sides at Lord's finished in a rain-decimated draw.

MCC XI to play Durham

Alex Gidman (captain, Gloucestershire)
Scott Newman (Middlesex)
Mark Ramprakash (Surrey)
David Sales (Northamptonshire)
Dawid Malan (Middlesex)
James Taylor (Leicestershire)
James Foster (wkt, Essex)
James Middlebrook (Northamptonshire)
Chris Tremlett (Hampshire)
Steve Kirby (Gloucestershire)
Steven Finn (Middlesex)