North is left out in cold for 2011 Test schedule

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The Independent Online

England will not play any Tests in the North next summer, breaking a sequence stretching back more than 70 years and heightening concerns about the allocation of major fixtures.

Despite having seven Tests to award – three against Sri Lanka followed by four against India – the England and Wales Cricket Board yesterday announced a startlingly unequal spread.

Cardiff's Sophia Gardens, Lord's and Hampshire's Rose Bowl will be used for Sri Lanka's visit. The Tests against India are going to Lord's, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and The Oval.

Headingley, Old Trafford and the Riverside have not been left completely in the cold,but sharing five one-day internationals between them hardly compensates for turning the North into a barren land for Test cricket.

Lancashire were not in the running to stage a Test match next season owing to the redevelopment of Old Trafford, but their chief executive, Jim Cumbes, is astonished by the absence of both Durham and Yorkshire from the 2011 roster. "For there to be nothing in Durham and Yorkshire is quite shocking," he said. "I'm very surprised, especially if you take Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire as a whole and take in the amount of cricket played in those areas. The North is a huge area for cricket."

This summer's international fixture list has caused concern, with both the Midlands and London staging back-to-back Tests between England and Pakistan. Poor attendances at Edgbaston were blamed, in part, on the fact that Nottingham had just hosted a game between the same two teams.

Part of the problem is that there are too many grounds wanting to stage Test cricket but perhaps the biggest concern surrounds the awarding of games to venues submitting the biggest bids. "We've found ourselves with a system of allocating major matches that may have many merits but is not necessarily giving us the geographical spread we would like," said David Harker, the Durham chief executive.

"The ECB is mindful that in 2012 there will be limitations on the staging of major sporting events due to the Olympic Games," said a spokesman. "Therefore, when looking at the allocation of international matches over a longer period the geographical distribution will be much more equitable."

In other words, in and around London may struggle to stage Tests in 2012, so the North can expect to make up what it has lost in 2011. As for next summer, though, cricket fans at the top of the country will need to factor travel costs into their Test-watching budget.

England home Tests 2011

England v Sri Lanka

May 26 - 30: 1st Test (Cardiff)

Jun 3 - 7: 2nd Test (Lord's)

Jun 16 - 20: 3rd Test (The Rose Bowl)

England v India

Jul 21-25: 1st Test (Lord's)

Jul 29-Aug 2: 2nd Test (Trent Bridge)

Aug 10-14: 3rd Test (Edgbaston)

Aug 18-22: 4th Test (The Oval)

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