As part of a bewildering array of future international fixtures, Durham was yesterday awarded an Ashes Test. The Riverside at Chester-le-Street will stage a match in the 2013 series, a belated if welcome recognition for a ground which has served a long apprenticeship.
Bizarrely, however, there is no certainty that an Ashes game will be allocated to Lord's. The most famous ground in the world will have to become involved in a bidding process like the other potential venues, which some might perceive to be tawdry and others may think is merely normal practice in a tough, commercial world.
An incomplete list of fixtures issued yesterday by the England and Wales Cricket Board also indicates that the cycle of Ashes series is about to change. Following 2013, Australia are expected next to visit only three years later in 2016.
The intention is then for England to visit Australia in 2017-18 and break the cycle which has meant the sides having to play a World Cup immediately after an arduous Test series in Australia – which, it must be conceded, has affected one side more than the other.
For Durham the delight at being granted an authentic big game came four years late. They expected, and deserved, to have an Ashes match this summer but were outbid, as was every other ground, by Cardiff. This time the Major Match Group recommended the Riverside and the ECB accepted with alacrity.
David Harker, Durham's chief executive, said: "As well as producing a winning team it has also been a goal to bring an Ashes Test match to the region and we're delighted that the North-east sports fans will have the opportunity to watch the ultimate clash between England and Australia on their doorstep."
It is the culmination of a long journey for big time cricket in the North-east. Durham were granted first class status in 1992, won the county championship for the first time last summer and are leading the table this season. The first Test at the Riverside was staged in 2003 and England have won all four of their Tests there.
Only one of the other four 2013 Ashes Tests has been allocated, to The Oval, and the Major Match Group stipulated that bids will be invited to stage them. It is unthinkable that Lord's would not have an Ashes Test, inconceivable that Australia would accept an itinerary without one but money will do most of the talking. If, say, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston offer more then anything might be possible.
Other matches allocated yesterday go from 2010 to 2016, although matches after 2013 must still be ratified since neither broadcasting rights nor a future tours programme have been agreed. The Rose Bowl in Hampshire, already given its maiden Test in 2011, will also have one in 2014 against India.
It is intended that Australia will revisit England in 2016 after England's tour there in 2014-15 and that England will return in 2017-18 instead of a year later.
While this will avoid clashes with the Cricket World Cup it means that Ashes series in England would in future vie for attention with the Olympic Games wherever they are.
Q&A: How Ashes Test venues are decided
How did Durham secure a Test?
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) accepted the recommendations of a body called the Major Match Group, which seeks to give Test matches to suitable grounds. The capacity at Durham will be 20,000 by 2013 and the club felt hard done by when it missed out this year.
What are the selection criteria?
Money talks. So does geography. The ECB is keen to have the venues for Test matches spread around the country, but Cardiff earned a Test this year simply because they had the money.
But Lord's will have a Test, won't it?
The ECB hasn't guaranteed Lord's an Ashes Test but it seems inconceivable Australia could tour England and not pass through the Long Room.
Why is the Ashes happening in 2016?
The ECB wants to avoid the situation where England play a World Cup after a gruelling Test series, so after coming in 2013 the Baggy Greens will be back in 2016.
Ground control: How the candidates for 2013 shape up
First Test: 1884, Capacity: 28,000, Ashes Tests: 34
Is the grand old ground still England's HQ following news that it must bid to stage an Ashes Test in 2013? Still the answer if any player is asked where he would most like to strut his stuff.
First Test: 1880, Capacity: 23,500, Ashes Tests: 32
England's oldest Test venue – the first meeting with Australia was staged there in 1880 – and its future is secure for the foreseeable future with Tests guaranteed up to 2016.
First Test: 1899, Capacity: 17,000, Ashes Tests: 23
Looked as though it might disappear off the radar when there was talk of Yorkshire upping sticks. Future is now settled – and it looks bright with a potentially decisive Test there next week.
First Test: 1884, Capacity: 19,000, Ashes Tests: 28
Lancashire's old home has been in danger of getting left behind. But OT has plans to fight back and a major redevelopment is in the pipeline. No confirmed Test until 2014, though.
First Test: 2003, Capacity: 20,000, Ashes Tests: 0
Shining example of how an international ground should take shape, according to many. England have a good record there, and Durham's reward is to be given an Ashes Test in 2013.
First Test: n/a, Capacity: 10,000 (20,000 with temporary seating), Ashes Tests: 0
Will become England's 10th Test venue when it hosts Sri Lanka in 2011. Picturesque, if wide open setting, but with new stands about to shoot up.
First Test: 2009, Capacity: 15,000, Ashes Tests: 1
Praised by one and all, just about, after staging the first Test this summer. Bought its place in the big time by lodging the highest bid but then delivered a match that ran like clockwork.
First Test: 1899, Capacity: 17,000, Ashes Tests: 20
Tastefully redeveloped over the last few years and a favourite with spectators, although small, even by English standards. Tests against Pakistan, India and West Indies coming up.
First Test: 1902, Capacity: 21,000, Ashes Tests: 13
Traditionally, the most atmospheric – although the opposition might prefer the word "intimidating" after hours of non-stop sledging from the terraces. A new pavilion is on its way this winter.Reuse content