The Sporting Week Ahead (23/03/13)


Hard as it is to believe, this is officially the first day of the new cricket season. But before you pack your flask and mufflers, I should add that the action takes place in Abu Dhabi, where MCC play Warwickshire, last season's champions. Switching the traditional curtain-raiser away from Lord's in mid-April was one of the game's brighter ideas, particularly in this Siberian spring.


And given the number of Russians around Stamford Bridge, it is hardly surprising that the national team will play Brazil there. Amazingly, the Brazilians are now ranked below even Greece in the Fifa world rankings. Either Scolari's side are rubbish, or Blatter's rankings are. You decide.


After the jollity of last Friday, England face a proper team tonight, Montenegro. The one certainty is there won't be another eight goals. But should England lose, and it is a serious possibility, expect plenty of heat to be directed Roy Hodgson's way. In other games Serbia play Scotland, which is looking like another tricky one for Gordon Strachan, and fast-improving Wales face Croatia. Northern Ireland and the Republic entertain Israel and Austria respectively.


Yorkshire have changed their name in limited-overs cricket to Vikings, and their immediate reward is a visit from the Minnesota Vikings, who today visit Headingley for a promotional tour. Quite what that will achieve is anyone's guess, but someone clearly thinks it's a good idea.


Racing at Ffos Las has a charm and a cadence all of its own. Perhaps this is the day to sample what lies behind it.


No Premier League action on Good Friday but a full spread of Football League games, with the Championship fixture of Crystal Palace v Birmingham the televised pick.


Gus Poyet's decision to stay with Brighton means that Reading's decision to sack Brian McDermott is looking increasingly daft. In fact, it has shades of Wolves' dismissal of Mick McCarthy last season. That only succeeded in plunging Wolves into a wind tunnel from which they have yet to emerge. Mindful perhaps of that precedent, Reading will hope to have stumbled on an alternative before today's visit to Arsenal. Surely it won't be Paolo Di Canio! Elsewhere, Sunderland host Manchester United.