Test cricket returns to Christchurch
Christchurch will host New Zealand's first home Boxing Day Test for 11 years when international cricket returns to the city in the 2014-15 season. Hagley Oval will become the eighth Test venue in the country and the Boxing Day match against Sri Lanka will mark New Zealand's first game in Christchurch since the city was hit by a major earthquake in 2011.
New Zealand Cricket has released its home schedule for the coming summer, which also features an international debut for the Bay Oval in Tauranga. There will be only two Test matches during the season, against Sri Lanka in Christchurch and Wellington, but 12 one-day internationals will take place in the lead-up to the home World Cup early next year.
Not since New Zealand played Pakistan in Wellington in 2003 has the country hosted a Boxing Day Test, and this year's match in Christchurch will be followed by a second Test at the Basin Reserve from January 3. Christchurch has not hosted a Test since 2006-07 and the only official internationals in the city since the earthquake were two World Cup qualifier ODIs this January, involving Scotland, Canada and Kenya.
"Bringing international cricket back to Christchurch was always a priority for NZC," Lindsay Crocker, NZC's head of cricket, said. "And we feel the Boxing Day Test was a good way to celebrate what will be a very special landmark.
"While our inclination is to play short-form cricket in the holiday period, on this occasion our preference is to play the Tests early so that we can maximise ODI opportunities ahead of the World Cup.
"The original agreement with Sri Lanka provided for a five-match ODI series and two T20s - but by mutual agreement, again with the World Cup in mind, we chose to play seven ODIs. Three very competitive opponents, the chance to play at all our World Cup venues, and to take the team around the country - we think this offers a good lead-in to the World Cup, while still maintaining our commitment to Test cricket."
The home season will begin with three ODIs against South Africa - two in Tauranga and one in Hamilton - in late October, before New Zealand head to the UAE to play Pakistan in three Tests, five ODIs and a T20. After returning home, they face Sri Lanka in two Tests and seven ODIs, before finishing the summer with two ODIs against Pakistan shortly before the World Cup.