England's cricketers will at last have the chance to draw breath this winter. Not only will they be home for Christmas but they will also have more than two months off leading into the new year. Securing the break in the relentless schedule was an integral part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's tour negotiations for the winter.
Although England will play in three different places in the next touring season, they have managed to avoid an autumn Test series. It means that they will be at home from late October until mid-January, thus offering them the break from the high intensity of matches and constant travel that most of them have been craving for years.
England will go to India in October for a series of five one-day matches and a Twenty20 and have managed the bonus of playing in major cities. The main section of the winter's events will be in the unlikely confines of the United Arab Emirates starting in mid-January. Dates have yet to be confirmed but England will play three Tests, three Twenty20s and four one-dayers against Pakistan, who are still unable to play matches at home.
Finally, England will go to Sri Lanka for two Test matches in late March and early April. There will be no limited-overs matches because many of Sri Lanka's players will be expected to play in the Indian Premier League which starts soon after.
England travelled to Leeds yesterday, quietly jubilant at the return to one-day form of the fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson. Having been dropped during the World Cup because of simple exhaustion, Anderson returned with 4 for 18 at The Oval on Tuesday in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka.
"It was a frustrating winter in the one-day form, for the team and for me personally," Anderson said.
England's winter dates
* Tour of India
4 October Arrive in Hyderabad
8 Oct Warm-up match (Hyderabad)
11 Oct Warm-up match (Hyderabad)
14 Oct First One Day International (day/night; Hyderabad)
17 Oct Second ODI (d/n; Delhi)
20 Oct Third ODI (d/n; Mohali)
23 Oct Fourth ODI (d/n; Mumbai)
26 Oct Fifth ODI (d/n; Kolkata)
29 Oct Twenty20 (d/n; Kolkata)
* Tour against Pakistan
Three Tests, four ODIs and three T20s to be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Dates and itinerary to be confirmed.
* Tour of Sri Lanka
26-30 March 2012 First Test (Galle)
3-7 Apr Second Test (Colombo [tbc])
Warm-up matches and itinerary to be confirmed. England will revisit Sri Lanka in 2014 for a series of one-day internationals.