Sports Listings: Plan ahead

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The Independent Online
THE weather in the weeks preceding the start of the domestic cricket season has prompted many of the counties to take their pre-season training in the form of a tour to warmer climes.

For the clubs, such tours can provide an invaluable start as weather in Britain can restrict pre-season practice, important this year as the first knockout round of the Benson and Hedges Cup is on 27 April. It also gives the spectator an early chance of watching the game in a warm environmment.

Five counties go to Cape Town in South Africa and Kent tour Zimbabwe. Yorkshire tour from 12 March to 4 April. Warwickshire (27 March to 14 April), Glamorgan, Northamptonshire (both 1 to 16 April) and Nottinghamshire (3 to 16 April) follow on. At Constantia Uitsig in Cape Town, Glamorgan play Warwickshire on 9 April and Northamptonshire the following day with a game against Nottinghamshire on the 11th. Nottinghamshire meet Warwickshire on 10 April at Worcester, an hour's drive from Cape Town. Kent's tour (22 March to 7 April) takes in a three-day game against Zimbabwe B on 30 March to 1 April at Harare.

Sunsports Tours, of Northampton, specialises in cricket tours and is organising Northamptonshire's and Glamorgan's trips to South Africa and Kent's visit to Zimbabwe. The tour company can supply packages for these trips.

Gloucestershire leave for Sri Lanka on 30 March, returning on 18 April. Based in Colombo, they play eight one- day matches and one three-day game, playing Sri Lankan under-23 XI on 5 April and three matches against Sri Lanka Board of Control XI on 10 and 11 April and from 15 to 17.

Leicestershire have chosen Jamaica as their place in the sun for their tour from 22 March to 6 April and play matches in Montego Bay and Kingston. Apart from four one-day matches against local clubs, Leicestershire play one-day matches in Kingston against a Jamaican Youth XI on 30 March at the Melbourne ground and the following day a President's XI at Sabina Park.

Derbyshire visit the warm, dry island of Bermuda, from 27 March to 9 April with a six-match itinerary that includes a game against the Bermuda national squad. Surrey take their playing staff to Dubai for pre-season training from 3 to 17 April and are likely to organise matches against local club and representative opposition. Sussex head to Spain and Malaga for a week's preparation for their playing staff from 1 to 9 April, while Middlesex plan a similar training trip to Portugal.

Sunsport Tours, 38 Teesdale, Southfields, Northampton NN3 5DH. Basic price for Northamptonshire tour: pounds 1,595 per person. Glamorgan: pounds 1,675. Kent: pounds 1,695. Add-on packages available. (Tel: 0604-647313).