England's fixture list for the 2018 summer season has been revealed, with fans planning some corporate hospitality able to choose from a series of mouth-watering encounters against Pakistan, Australia and India.
Pakistan, who beat England to briefly take top spot in the ICC Test rankings by drawing the Test series here last year, will be back for a two-match series in May and June, with Tests at Lord's and Headingley.
After their short visit, Australia will be over for a five-match one-day international series. This includes matches at the Kia Oval on June 13th and Edgbaston on June 27th.
By this time, the two sides will know each other well, as England will tour Australia for the Ashes and a one-day series this winter.
From July, India will take centre stage. Having swiftly replaced Pakistan at the top of the Test rankings in September last year, India have gone from strength to strength in both formats, as England will know only too well. Led by the brilliant Virat Kohli and combining huge batting talent with outstanding spinners and canny seamers, India have now won eight Test series in a row, including a 4-0 drubbing of England last winter. Indeed, in a marathon season in which the side played 13 home Tests, India also whitewashed New Zealand 3-0, won a one-off Test against Bangladesh and defeated Australia 2-1.
India's most recent form has also been hugely impressive, as they took the short trip to Sri Lanka this summer and whitewashed the islanders 3-0 in the Test series and 5-0 in the one-day matches.
While India's prolific batsmen have been regularly racking up totals of 600 or more, their recent run has been mostly played in subcontinental conditions or in the Caribbean, where the pitches are similarly slow and spin-friendly. The key test of whether India can stay ahead of the pack will come over the next 12 months; this winter will bring a tour of South Africa, where the likes of Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will test their techniques on fast, bouncy pitches.
In England, they will face more sideways movement and will hope to do better than in their last two visits. In 2011 they arrived as the world number ones but were knocked off top spot as England whitewashed them 4-0, a scenario that could theoretically repeat itself if England can beat the West Indies at Lord's and then enjoy a triumphant Ashes series in the manner of 2010-11. In 2014 India won the Lord's Test against an England side that had been whitewashed 5-0 in the Ashes and had just lost at home to Sri Lanka, but Alastair Cook's men bounced back to take the series 3-1.
Next summer's action will see the first Test being staged from August 1st-5th at Edgbaston, the venue where England clinched top spot in the rankings in 2011, while the final Test will be at the Kia Oval from September 7th-11th.
The announcement of next summer's fixtures also confirmed that Edgbaston will host the Natwest T20 Blast finals day again on September 15th. Nottinghamshire Outlaws will be hoping to defend their title, while this year's finalists Birmingham Bears will be trying to go one better.
Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription