Cricket's transformation in Australia from summer sport to all-year-round sport has received another fillip today with confirmation that northern cities Darwin and Cairns will each host international matches from next year.

Australian Cricket Board (ACB) Chief Executive, James Sutherland, revealed that his organisation has awarded the centres a total of two Tests and three one-day internationals between the host nation and Bangladesh during the months of July and August 2003.

The final go-ahead for the matches will hinge on formal approval of the two venues from the International Cricket Council, but planning for each series is otherwise well advanced.

Darwin's Marrara Oval has been earmarked to host the first match of a two-Test series in July, with the Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns the venue for the second encounter. A three-match one-day series is scheduled to follow, with the opening two contests played in Cairns and the final game at Marrara.

"To get the chance to play top level cricket in Darwin and Cairns is terrific," said Australian Test captain, Steve Waugh, this afternoon.

"The team hasn't played in this part of the country before and it will be a great opportunity to take cricket up to northern Australia where I know there is a lot of support for the Australian team."

The matches will be the first that the Bangladesh national team has played on Australian soil.

Though Marrara has never previously staged major cricket, it enjoys a history of playing host to a number of significant sporting events - including Australian Football League practice matches.

In the lead-up to its two fixtures, the ground will be resurfaced and its lighting, sightscreens and scoreboards will be the subject of upgrades. Corresponding to a process in increasing vogue in Australia in recent times, a drop-in pitch will be prepared off-site (under the supervision of MCG curator Tony Ware) and installed in the days leading up to the matches.

Darwin's readiness for Test cricket is also likely to be enhanced in August this year, when a number of state-based teams arrive in the city to participate in a proposed version of the annual Institutes Challenge series.

The Bundaberg Rum Stadium, for its part, has already been the home of tour matches and state games, as well as Super 8 matches during past Australian pre-seasons.

Its last first-class game was staged in November 1998, and its suitability as a Test and one-day international venue will be given added weight when work begins on upgraded lighting, extended car parking, ticketing facilities and seating areas, and the installation of practice wickets.

Both cities are considered to offer ideal climates for cricket in the winter months. Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, enjoys mild winters with maximum temperatures typically reaching marks in the low 30s on the Celsius scale. Owing to its geography on the tropical northern coast of Queensland, Cairns is also likely to provide ideal conditions. Days in its annual dry season regularly produce sunshine, low humidity, and temperatures in the mid-20s.

Sutherland confirmed today that the ACB would be keen to see the two cities ultimately fulfil a long-term role in hosting major matches.

"The (international) schedule is very congested and we really need the opportunity to be able to play cricket in the winter months," he said.

"Once they're each confirmed as (Test) venues, then we can look to lock in future events."