On the Front Foot: Cardiff is given chance to rise from the Ashes after poor turn-outs


Allocating the venues for international cricket matches is a tricky business. You can please some of the people (but not many) all of the time and all of the people some of the time.

Never ever can you please all of the people all of the time and occasionally you cannot please some of the people any of the time. The grounds for the Test and limited-overs matches for the years from 2012-16 were decided last week. The grounds which wished to stage them were invited to bid for gold, silver and bronze packages of matches, which decreed amount and degree of importance.

There was one platinum package, which was awarded to Lord's. These were of a set price and replaced the old system under which grounds were in a straight auction for matches. Although the England and Wales Cricket Board are extremely reluctant to divulge the amounts, figures of £12m, £5m, £3m and £200,000 were implied by some. The big surprise was the award of an Ashes Test in 2015 to Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.

The ground staged a memorable Ashes contest in 2009, since when it has foundered somewhat. Matches have been poorly attended and, in the case of the Test against Sri Lanka earlier in the summer, few in the city seemed to have a clue it was happening, fewer still turned up. The allocation is recommended by the ECB's Major Matches Group, which went round the country listening to submissions.

The MMG consist of a chairman, Lord Morris, the former Trade Union leader, Karen Earl, the owner of a public relations company, John Pickup, chairman of the ECB's recreational assembly, Rev Mike Vockins, the former secretary of Worcestershire, and John Crowther, the former chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association. The MMG were impressed by Cardiff's presentation, as they were in 2008.

Although the ground was stripped of a Test next year for failing to honour on time its commitment to the ECB, a rescheduling of payment has apparently worked. There is no Ashes Test for the Rose Bowl, the other high-profile bidder, though there are two each for Lord's, The Oval and Trent Bridge, which was highly impressive. It will be intriguing to see if the allocation decided last week is actually where the matches take place. There is no certainty.

Women beat the recession

Times of austerity these may be, with some groups of workers being fobbed off with pay rises well below the rate of inflation. This, then, is the time to be a woman cricketer.

Burying the good news beneath the award of their international matches, the ECB announced that the pay packets of England's women cricketers will be doubled next year. Sounds as if it might be a career move worth pursuing.

Fashionably late for the party

The match taking place at The Oval today is the latest to be played in England, though only by a few hours. It so happens the combatants were the same on both occasions.

On 25 September 2004, England played West Indies in the gripping final of the Champions Trophy, which they lost. The match finished in the gloom not long before 7pm. Tonight's T20 international will just have started.

Four Test matches have been played in their entirety in September in England, all of them also at The Oval, of which the latest was the coruscating final Test in 2005. Maybe late September cricket works after all.

Bairstow bestows his tribute

Jonny Bairstow was mightily impressive in receiving the Young Cricketer of the Year Award bestowed by the Cricket Writers' Club last Monday. He answered questions from the club and MCC president Christopher Martin-Jenkins calmly, articulately and sensibly, and paid tribute to Geoff Boycott, a friend of the family, who presented him with his cap three days earlier.

Bairstow was educated at St Peter's School, York, which was also the alma mater of Norman Yardley, the former Yorkshire and England captain.

Yardley also had dealings with Boycott. He became president of Yorkshire but resigned in 1984 after a vote of no confidence prompted by supporters of Boycott angry at the committee's decision not to offer him a contract.


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