Back-to-back Ashes confirmed for 2013
England and Australia will play each other in ten consecutive Tests across two series home and away in 2013-14, and that could be followed by a further five-match series in 2015, after it was confirmed that the dates of the next Ashes series Down Under have been brought forward by a year.
The situation, which last occurred in 1974-75, has been forced upon the two boards by the competing demands of the 2015 World Cup, which is also scheduled to be held in Australia and which, had the 2014-15 Ashes gone ahead as planned, would have required England's cricketers to remain in the country for five months.
A proposal to bring England's next home series, in 2013, forward by a year was thwarted by the competing demands of the London Olympics. England's subsequent home Ashes summer is now expected to take place in 2015, a year earlier than the 2016 date originally proposed, with the traditional four-year home-and-away rotation expected to kick in from then on.
"It's always been our aim to break that cycle of two huge events in the same winter," Steve Elworthy, the ECB's marketing director, told ESPNcricinfo. "To ensure that the teams have better preparation time for the World Cup, this is the only solution, but I also think it's absolutely manageable. I believe the brand is strong enough, as we've seen this year. The home series is critical from our perspective to make sure our grounds are full, but when England head Down Under, they will be trying to replicate the performance that they've just produced."
Although the new dates have yet to be included into the Future Tours Programme, the proposed shift of England's home series to 2015 is potentially significant, as it takes the series away from the competing interests of football's Euro 2016 tournament, which would overshadow the build-up in June and July. Instead, the only other major sporting event in 2015 is the Rugby World Cup, set to take place in England at the end of the cricket season in October.
A major consideration for CA was the prospect of a new round of TV rights negotiations, as the current deal is set to expire in May 2013. With India due to tour in 2011-12, followed by South Africa, England and the World Cup, the board is anticipating four consecutive seasons of high-quality international cricket.
''The Ashes have an x-factor element that excites the Australian public," CA's spokesman Peter Young told The Sydney Morning Herald. "The Ashes make turnstiles spin and they drive the ratings up. In terms of the next media contract, it's an ideal starting point because it's a lucrative blue chip series and all the networks would give their eye teeth to get hold of it."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo