Bug problem prompts venue switch for Sussex-Lancashire County Championship opener

It seemed unlikely back in spring that Hove would host cricket this season PA Images via Getty Images

Sussex and Lancashire have agreed to switch their season opener from Hove to Emirates Old Trafford after an infestation of leatherjackets - crane fly larvae - damaged the outfield at Sussex's headquarters.

Lancashire will now host the teams' encounter in the opening round of the County Championship, starting on April 8, with the corresponding fixture later in the month being shifted to the 1st Central County Ground at Hove. Both fixtures will be played behind closed doors, because of UK government restrictions relating to Covid-19.

Following an inspection by the ECB's pitch and grounds advisor, Andy MacKay, on Friday it was agreed with Sussex's head groundsperson, Ben Gibson, that although the groundstaff had made "significant progress", moving the fixture would allow extra time for the outfield to recover.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo earlier this month, Sussex were forced to contemplate the change after discovering their bug problem. European crane flies (known colloquially as daddy longlegs) lay their eggs in soil, which then hatch out and feed on the roots of plants - in this case, the grass on the outfield. The insecticide that was commonly used to treat the issue has been banned in the UK since 2016.

The square has not been damaged, though, and Sussex are expected to play their first home fixture against Yorkshire on April 22-25 as planned. The return match against Lancashire will start on April 29.