With tickets for Lancashire's LV= County Championship matches going on sale, Paul Edwards looks ahead to the games at Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool
Lancashire supporters are probably preparing themselves for one of the most unusual summers in their county's history. Only one four-day match is to be played at Old Trafford in 2011, and when Red Rose fans turn up for one-day games, they will have to adjust to the turning of the square through 90 degrees.
But while Lancashire's headquarters undergoes the next stage of its transformation into a state of the art stadium fit to stage an Ashes Test in 2013, the spotlight will fall on the outgrounds, and Manchester-based fans of Glen Chapple's team should be under no illusions about the warmth of the welcome that awaits them if they travel west to one of the three venues which will host LV= Division One games this summer.
Pride of place goes to Liverpool CC's Aigburth home, where Lancashire will play five County Championship games including the Roses Match in May.
"There are some very attractive fixtures on our list, especially the game against Yorkshire, which should attract a full house," said Liverpool chairman Peter McEvoy. "The wheels are in well in motion to develop our summer long cricket festival and we have already been in contact with local schools and Liverpool City Council about this."
"Lancashire were working on our square at the end of 2010 and they have prepared two specific wickets for the county games. Everything's going according to plan and the work will now intensify."
However, while Liverpool prepares to consolidate its reputation as Lancashire's second home, Southport and Birkdale CC is readying itself to host its first County Championship match for 12 years when current champions Nottinghamshire visit Trafalgar Road in July.
"I am delighted with both the match we have been allotted and its timing," said S&B chairman Tony Elwood. "It's fantastic for both the club and the town and the culmination of a great deal of hard work begun by my predecessor, Ken Standring, to bring county cricket back to Southport.
"We are under no illusions as to the amount of preparatory work that is required, but I am confident that we have the personnel capable of successfully managing this event. Work has already begun to deliver a game that will prove a memorable occasion.
"Southport & Birkdale CC has a proud history of staging county cricket and our aim is to ensure that this summer's match more than lives up to that record."
And last, but in no respects least, Blackpool chairman David Cresswell is expecting a big attendance over the four days of the game against Worcestershire, which has been scheduled for the high summer month of August.
"We're delighted to host this match, especially so since it's to be played in the school holidays and at the height of the holiday season," he said. "Our aim is to make both players and spectators as welcome as possible."
So while Old Trafford is out of commission, Lancashire fans should perhaps be reassured that Glen Chapple and his players will be welcomed at three clubs, all of whom are keen to prove their ability to host county cricket. Red Rose supporters can be encouraged to make the journeys to Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool too. We are heading for an unusual summer, but it should still provide plenty of cricket which will be well worth watching.
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