ECB aim to fill cash gap with Australia one-day series

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The Independent Online

In an effort to recoup some of the losses sustained by England's failure to travel to Zimbabwe during this year's World Cup, the England and Wales Cricket Board are attempting to lure Australia into playing three one-day internationals here in 2004.

The matches against the world champions, which could be worth more than £1million to the ECB, are pencilled in to be played before the ICC Trophy, scheduled to be staged in England in September 2004. The ECB are hoping Cricket Australia will view these games as a suitable warm-up for their team before the tournament.

Although these fixtures will add to the heavy workload already placed on England's cricketers - who even before the ICC Trophy are due to play in seven Test matches and a 10-match Triangular series against New Zealand and the West Indies - the ECB feel the staging of these extra games is the best way of raising much-needed revenue.

Encouraged by the selling-out of this week's three NatWest Challenge matches against Pakistan, the ECB believe that the interest, and wallets, of cricket fans in this country can take another hit of international cricket next year.

The ECB expect to find out at the conclusion of this week's annual round of International Cricket Council meetings just how much the "no-show" in Harare will cost them. As well as seeing in Ehsan Mani as the new president, the ICC will find out how large the compensation claim is from the Global Cricket Corporation for the governing body's failure to fulfil their contractual obligations during the World Cup.

GCC, who currently hold the television rights for every cricket tournament the ICC stage, are entitled to claim compensation because of the gaps that appeared in the World Cup schedule. Officials from the ECB will be looking on with intense interest because these costs will then be passed onto them.

Estimates of the size of claim are anything up to $3.5m (£2.5m), which is the amount the ICC withheld from England's share of the profits at the end of the tournament. Should GCC demand the full amount, a long legal battle between the ICC and the ECB is inevitable. However, if the claim is in the region of $1m the ECB are expected to take the loss.