On Wednesday, the international venues in England and Wales found out which major fixtures they would be hosting from 2020-24. Some were delighted, others disappointed. Here’s a rundown of what it was all about
What’s the big deal about the announcement?
It set out a raft of venues for major matches – men’s internationals, domestic finals and the new T20 tournament – for the five-year period 2020-2024. It means the counties involved now know when England will be in town, a big occasion for the clubs, and can start thinking more seriously about the new T20 competition (yes, it launches in 2020). While exact schedules won’t be announced until closer to each season it allows the clubs to start planning and to shape their financial situation for the years ahead.
Did everyone get what they wanted?
No, but you will never keep everyone happy in a process like this. Hampshire, whose ground is the Ageas Bowl, were very hopeful of the big prize of an Ashes Test but that has gone to Headingley. That means another Test in the north of England. Lord’s also lost a long-standing fixture – the domestic one-day final it has staged since it began in 1963 – with Trent Bridge taking that.
So who is the biggest winner?
Well, probably Headingley for the above reason. They now have Tests against Australia and India in the cycle – the two prime opposition – and the same goes for their Roses rivals Lancashire. Both are also host grounds for the new T20. Lord’s has held on to two Tests a year despite one dropping off the calendar. There will be grumblings about that, but it’s an iconic fixture for any side and usually sells very well. Edgbaston is also cemented as the ‘home’ of T20 finals day.
A Test has been cut…so England are playing less cricket?
From 2020, yes a little. There will now be six Tests per season – sometimes a marquee five-match series and a one-off match at Lord’s – alongside six ODIs (two series of three under the new FTP), whereas now there can be as many as 10, and six T20Is which is a little increase. So in reality, the number of days of England cricket barely changes.
What about the grounds who previously had Tests?
As mentioned, Hampshire will be a bit miffed. Durham, the Riverside Ground, knew they wouldn’t be in the mix after their financial problems which needed an ECB bailout while Cardiff didn’t go for any having struggled to sell them. So it’s back to what can be termed the ‘traditional six’ which is, perhaps, also an acknowledgment at some misplaced expansion of the Test field.
Trent Bridge has missed another Ashes Test
Indeed, and that will disappoint the England team (going 2-1 up in 2005, a nail-biting win in 2013 and the small matter of 60 all out in 2015) although maybe not the Australians. There is no Ashes Test there in 2019 and now neither in 2023. Nottinghamshire have been diplomatic about it.
Test cricket’s a bit London-centric, isn’t it?
That could be argued, for sure, with half of each year’s Test allocation now in the capital. However, despite the often steep ticket prices, both Lord’s and The Oval have excellent attendance figures. The English game is fortunate that Tests continue to sell strongly – although not completely across the board – and London does very well.
What about day-night Tests?
As with exact fixtures and touring schedules, those sorts of details will be firmed up over the coming years. It remains to be seen if day-night games become a yearly event in England or a little bit more of a novelty factor.
Are there any more details on the new T20 tournament yet
Not really. What the teams will be called is the next stage. In ECB speak these are, “eight venues around which new partnerships would be formed and new teams created”. There is also a chance that some matches will be taken out of their host centres to spread the games further around the country; for example a game from Cardiff could be played in Taunton or one from Headingley in Durham. Also, no decision has yet been made on where the play-offs and final will be held.
The 2019 World Cup happens before this cycle, but we don’t know those venues yet
Yes, they are still to be confirmed. That is an ICC event so is managed by them and a local organising committee. An announcement is expected shortly on the host venues for the tournament which runs from May 30 to July 14, 2019.