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Lord’s, London – It ended with a marathon innings: 376 balls faced, nearly eight hours at the crease, an unbeaten century that guided South Africa to safety under intense pressure and played by Francois du Plessis on his test debut. A remarkable rearguard action that followed a historic ten wicket victory by England in Mumbai just hours earlier. Test cricket at its best. Epic, enthralling, unpredictable.

Yet tragically, a rare chance for the longest form of the game to dominate the back pages was overshadowed later that same day by the ECB’s unveiling of the 2013 English domestic schedule.

The announcement of next year’s county fixtures has long been a highlight of the sporting year, coming as it does as a first opportunity to see the ECB scheduling computer’s latest attempt to side-step common sense.

For many media outlets it’s become a ‘must cover’ event. Associated Press Sports Editor, Bruce Humber, explains:

“Impressive as the test action was today, I’d already committed most of our available staff to Lord’s for the presentation of the domestic schedule. You need your experienced reporters where you expect them to find the big stories. Will there be no fixtures outside of London during June? Are Derbyshire and Sussex scheduled to play Yorkshire at Headingley on the same day? Has the County Championship marketing budget finally broken through the £100 barrier?

Plus, as it’s the final year of the CB40 in 2013 the ECB had splashed out on an Iceland 75 Piece Ultimate Buffet Platter. So whilst the ongoing press accreditation dispute with the BCCI means there are no photographs of Monty Panesar clean bowling Sachin Tendulkar we now have extensive photo coverage of Mike Gatting eating three cheese straws at once.”

But with a historic day of test cricket completely overshadowed how does Humber think the situation could be avoided in the future?

“Clearly the time has come to create a window in the ICC future tours programme for the unveiling of next year’s county programme. That or the ECB need to produce a schedule that isn’t quite so stupid. Neither of which seem likely to happen any time soon.”

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