Hampshire's Rose Bowl will host its maiden Test match in 2011 when Sri Lanka tour England for a three-Test series in May and June. The decision was announced by the England & Wales Cricket Board as they unveiled their schedule for the next three seasons.
"This is a truly historic day for The Rose Bowl and Hampshire Cricket," said the chairman, Rod Bransgrove. "Staff, players, members, supporters, commercial partners, in fact anyone with an association with this fantastic ground can feel a huge sense of pride in what has been achieved."
The Rose Bowl has been fighting for Test recognition for the past four years, and in 2006 it suffered a major setback when Cardiff's Sophia Gardens jumped the queue to land a prestigious Ashes Test for next summer. There was a feeling that the ground was hamstrung by a lack of direct transport links, not least during the Champions Trophy in 2004, but Bransgrove believes that a corner has been turned.
"This is the culmination of an enormous amount of hard work and dedication and yes, it is the fulfilment of a personal dream," he said. "It is important that this is not seen as 'mission accomplished' though, as we fully intend to be a permanent fixture on the Test-match calendar from 2011 onwards."
Bransgrove added: "This allocation of matches was hard-fought and demonstrates that with our new £45million development, turning the ground into the first ever model Test match ground, we are now one of the major sports and entertainment venues in the country. The allocation perfectly matches our proposed development timescale, due for completion in the summer of 2010 and fully tested, well before our historic first Test match in 2011."
The Rose Bowl will become the tenth Test venue in England and Wales, after the decision was reached by the independent Major Match Group, chaired by Lord Morris of Handsworth, and endorsed by the ECB Board which met at Lord's this week.
"We were presented with a more than 200 excellent and professional bids for the ECB major matches until the end of the 2011 season. It demonstrated to us the ever growing strength of international cricket in England and Wales.
"We were delighted to note the increasing quality and quantity of world-class facilities provided by our venues," said Lord Morris. "The MMG examined each and everyone against our balanced scorecard which specifically rewards grounds for the excellence of their facilities. We have nominated the venues that were best suited and most deserved to be awarded the major matches."