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April 20, 2006
Cardiff will play host to their first-ever Test match when Australia next visit England in 2009, after being elevated to Category A status by an ECB review committee.
Sophia Gardens, which recently unveiled a major project to overhaul the venue, will now join Lord's, The Oval, Edgbaston and Headingley in hosting the lucrative Ashes Tests. Old Trafford, where 10,000 people were turned away on the final morning of last summer's third Test, and Trent Bridge, the venue of England's decisive three-wicket victory in the same campaign, both miss out.
The decision was made by the ECB's Major Match Group, chaired by Sir William Morris OJ, who said: "We congratulate Cardiff on joining the list of Category A (Test match) venues. We also express our gratitude for the support which the Glamorgan Club has received from the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff City Council for their development plans."
"This is an historic day for cricket in Wales," said Paul Russell, the chairman of Glamorgan. "The award of an npower Ashes Test Match will build on the Welsh Assembly's exciting programme for the development of tourism through sport. The development of Sophia Gardens will transform the venue into a modern, world-class stadium and help Glamorgan Cricket enthuse a new generation of cricket players."
Glamorgan's captain, Robert Croft, was thrilled by the decision. "I know that this news will provide cricket in Wales, and Glamorgan in particular, with a massive boost. I can still remember the day I made my debut as a full England Test cricketer. I know that throughout Wales this will inspire young cricketers to join Simon Jones and become the Test cricketers of the future."
In recent years, Cardiff has become a focal point for British sport, with the grand Millennium Stadium playing host to the Rugby World Cup final in 1999, as well countless football finals ever since the redevelopment of Wembley got underway. The Ryder Cup in 2010 has also been scheduled for the city, although an Ashes Test would arguably top the lot.
The decision still has to be ratified, however, by Cardiff City council, for the redevelopment plans have met with some opposition from local pressure groups. Back in October, Russell threatened to relocate Glamorgan's stadium to a new development outside of the city, if the plans were not approved.
Sophia Gardens has been Glamorgan's home since 1967, in which time it has hosted five one-day internationals, the first being New Zealand's shock victory against Australia in the 1999 World Cup. The most famous match was another Australian upset, which bodes well for 2009, when Bangladesh turned them over in the NatWest Series last summer. This year, Cardiff plays host to its first England match, against Pakistan in August.
The MMG also unveiled the Test match allocations for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Chester-le-Street in Durham, which hosted its first Test last summer and was also in the running for the Ashes match, has been awarded a Test against West Indies next summer, which drew a muted reaction from the club's chairman, Clive Leach.
"Although ours was the second highest bid, on this occasion we were unsuccessful," he said. "Both ourselves and Cardiff were prepared to pay significantly more to the ECB than those grounds on long-term staging agreements, who were not required to bid as part of this allocation process."
"Obviously we are hugely disappointed at the outcome of the decision," added David Harker, the chief executive. "We will look forward to welcoming the West Indies to the Riverside in 2007 and demonstrating to a global audience our ability to successfully host major Test Matches at the Riverside."
Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's chief executive, was also philosophical about Old Trafford missing out on the Ashes. "Congratulations to Cardiff and good luck to them, but it is a big blow to Lancashire and to the North-West which is a hot-bed of cricket. Having said that, we did not have an Ashes Test in 2001 and we bounced back from that. We can do it again."
Forthcoming Test schedule
West Indies Chester-le-Street, Headingley, Lord's and Old Trafford
India The Oval, Lord's and Trent Bridge
New Zealand Lord's, Old Trafford and Trent Bridge
South Africa The Oval, Edgbaston, Headingley and Lord's
Zimbabwe Lord's and tbc
Australia The Oval, Cardiff, Edgbaston, Headingley and Lord's
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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