Edgbaston misses out on 2013 Ashes
Trent Bridge was the most successful English ground, securing two Ashes Tests, while Lancashire's investments to revamp their facilities at Old Trafford have paid off after their venues were allocated an Australia Test in 2013, as the ECB announced the lucrative allocation of international fixtures for 2012-2016 on Wednesday. Somewhat surprisingly, Cardiff beat the Rose Bowl to secure an Ashes Test in 2015, while Edgbaston has missed out on a slot for the marquee series in 2013 .
Glamorgan, who will also host the New Zealand Test in 2013, will be considered lucky to have made the grade. Cardiff suffered due to the poor crowds and weather during the visit of Sri Lanka - just 922 were present to witness England's dramatic final-day victory - and Glamorgan have already had to hand back their Test against West Indies next season which has been allocated to Lord's.
The county are still paying the ECB for the Sri Lanka Test but Lord Morris of Handsworth, who chaired the major match group, defended the decision to had Cardiff another Ashes match. "The submission they put forward met the broad and basic criteria and on the overall assessment they merited the award of the 2015 Test," he said.
"We are very keen to see England cricket at Test level - or major match level - in all regions. Cricket is not a London-centric or Midlands-centric sport. That's why we were very supportive to develop cricket in Wales, Durham and elsewhere."
There was never any doubt about Trent Bridge's suitability for international cricket but the ground's standing has been emphasised by the allocations. "To secure Ashes Tests matches in both the 2013 and 2015 series is a tremendous endorsement of our track record of delivery and the pledges that we made in our bid," Derek Brewer, the Nottinghamshire chief executive, said. "International cricket has always been extremely well supported in the East Midlands and I am delighted that our members and supporters will be able to attend such high-profile matches at Trent Bridge.
"This package of matches will enable us to continue to invest in our venue, our professional team and our community projects and there is a lot of work to be done to harness all of the opportunities that Ashes Tests provide," added Brewer. "I am really grateful to all those who have played their part in this process and pleased that they have been rewarded with cricket matches that can do so much for our venue, our community and the regional economy. It has been a real team effort."
Lancashire will also be very relieved to have secured the Ashes Test, as well as Tests against India and Pakistan in 2014 and 2016, and a number of limited-overs matches. "This has been our goal since 2006," said Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes. "Naturally we are delighted to see the Ashes return to Old Trafford in advance of the 2013 match.
"It has certainly been a fantastic couple of weeks for the club: winning the County Championship after such a long wait and getting the final seal of approval to proceed with our redevelopment. This is just the icing on the cake. We now look forward to transforming Old Trafford into a world class venue fit to host international cricket."
There is a feel-good factor around Old Trafford after Lancashire ended their 77-year wait for the County Championship last week, but despite the £550,000 prize for first place (most of which goes to the players) the club needed to gain an Ashes Test to help pay for the extensive redevelopment of the ground.
Time had almost run out for them as the long-running legal battles over the ground's plans dragged well into this season. They were eventually won but the latest phase of building work only began in the last month. Lancashire are confident they remain on course to complete the work by 2013 - and the new player and media facilities may be open by next August - and the ECB have allocated matches on the promise of a final product.
Warwickshire, however, already have a finished product and it had been thought that Edgbaston's infrastructure, particularly the imposing new stand which made an impressive debut during the Test against India, would count in its favour, while the ground also hosted Twenty20 finals day this year. But they will miss out on Australia's visit in 2013 although will host finals day in four consecutive summers plus a semi-final in the World Test Championship.
Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, was also left to ponder what the future holds for Hampshire after the Rose Bowl was left with one Test in five years after staging its first with the visit of Sri Lanka this season.
The system for allocating the fixtures altered from the closed bidding process that attracted controversy for forcing counties to spend more money than they could really afford in order to host England games. This time counties had aimed for fixed-price groups of matches and were been judged on factors such as infrastructure, operations, legacy and community commitment.
Gloucestershire will host just three ODIs between 2012-2016 after missing out on any further matches to raise doubts about Bristol's viability as an international venue.
"We recognise Bristol has some challenging circumstances, the location of the ground for example," Lord Morris said. "Our chairman has indicated his willingness to sit down with them and examine the overall position of the club to see what, if anything, the ECB can do to assist."
2013 Ashes venues: Lord's, Trent Bridge, Old Trafford, Durham, The Oval.
2015 Ashes venues: Lord's, Trent Bridge, Cardiff, Edgbaston, The Oval.