Whoever loses during the 2003 World Cup program, it is not going to be the treasurers running the six Test unions in South Africa and which are to host five games each during the month-long event.

There are other reasons as well for those in charge of the two main Gauteng venues to anticipate a cash bonanza with SuperSport Park, Centurion and the Wanderers sharing 10 games between them. If current financial escalation figures are taken into account it could mean, by 2003, a windfall of more than R18-million for the two provincial bodies.

Which is just the sort of toffee Northerns are likely to enjoy after being badly hit by the rain-affected and now controversial fifth Test of the series against England in January where more than R1.25-million losses were incurred.

But if Northerns or any of the other five major provinces want the opening World Cup match, a semi-final or the final they need to bid for the honour and the lucky winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year. The draw of the 54 matches, of which 48 are being held in South Africa, is expected to be made about 18 months before the tournament starts from mid to late February to late March in 2003.

Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board, yesterday said South Africa are to play in the opening game of the tournament, but who it would be against depends on the draw. It could against Australia, the current holders, which is the norm in such cases: the host nation playing the holders.

Outlining other 2003 World Cup plans Dr Bacher said there was a need to play the bigger games at bigger venues.

"Last year we had a situation where South Africa played India at Hove which is a venue where the capacity is about 5 000," he said. "We cannot allow that to happen in 2003."

Which could mean South Africa playing India, should they drawn in the same group, or Pakistan, in Durban or at the Wanderers. With 30 games already pencilled in at the Test venues and the opening and closing games as well as the semi-finals likely to be shared among four of them the remaining 14 matches are expected to be shared among eight other grounds.

Those already approved are The Oval, Alexandra Park, Pietermaritzburg, Buffalo Park, East London, De Beers Country Club, Kimberley, at North West Stadium in Potchefstroom. Chatsworth and a rural venue still to be decided in the Eastern Cape have also been included on the list of possible World Cup grounds.

There was uncertainty at the stage whether Benoni or Paarl would be included until they had been upgraded to the required standards.

Zimbabwe are like to stage at least three of the six games expected to be played outside South Africa in Harare and Bulawayo. The Nairobi venue is to be monitored in October during the ICC knockout tournament to see whether it qualified or needed upgrading to meet the needs to host World Cup matches.

Kenya and Bangladesh have already qualified for the tournament after being granted official limited-overs international status two years ago and reconfirmed in New Zealand in January. Bangladesh are expected to be named as the tenth full member country in late June when the ICC meet at Lord's in late June for their annual meeting.