DURHAM hope to gain some insight into what their early season batting line-up should be during an 11-day trip to Dubai.
They leave on Thursday with a 15-man squad, which does not include Keaton Jennings, Mark Wood and Paul Coughlin, who are involved in the North v South series.
“There is a lot of uncertainty about the line-up for the start of the season and we need to see some performances rather than base decisions purely on practice,” said coach Jon Lewis.
“We will be playing a couple of 50-over matches and taking part in the Emirates T20 tournament, which is becoming quite a big event. It helps to keep Emirates happy as our major sponsors as they probably weren't impressed by our relegation.”
Lewis felt Durham's punishment by the ECB initially acted as a powerful motivation for the players, but now says: “Six months is a long time to hold a grudge. It's a fresh start with a few new faces and the players are keen to get going.”
The fact that they are going on their first pre-season tour for several years is an indication that the ECB bail-out has allowed the purse strings to be loosened, although the squad still looks lean following the loss or release of seven players.
Other than Stephen Cook and Tom Latham, who will share the overseas player's duties, the only new signing is top-order batsman Cameron Steel, the former Durham University captain.
He will be on the trip, along with England Under 19 seamer Josh Coughlin and young spinner George Harding.
On their return Durham will play a two-day match against Middlesex at Merchant Taylor's School on April 3-4, prior to starting the season against Durham University on April 7.
Cook is expected to arrive during that match, ready for the opening championship game at home to Nottinghamshire.