Scotland to join National League

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board made a potentially landmark decision yesterday when it confirmed that Scotland – who were dropped from the Benson and Hedges Cup in 2000 – are to be admitted to the Norwich Union League from the 2003 season on a three-year trial, subject to them being in a position to commit to participation by 1 September next year.

Scotland would become part of a 10-team second division (the First Division will remain with nine teams), with all participants playing 18 matches on a home-and-away basis. In the Scots' case they have indicated that "home" would alternate between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

A £17m gamble by the Hampshire chairman, Rod Bransgrove, may soon be paying rich divdends for the county. The Rose Bowl, the new ground to which Hampshire moved at the start of last season, is to stage one-day internationals from 2004 and there was also a hint yesterday that Test match status might not be far behind.

It is unlikely that England will play there in the inaugural match, but, subject to the fine print in the various touring contracts being sorted out, there is every chance that the opening game will be a crowd puller, since the likely tourists are the West Indies and New Zealand, who have been pencilled in for that summer's triangular tournament with England.

The ECB's chief executive, Tim Lamb, said: "Although the ground is not currently scheduled to host Test matches, there is no reason why it should not be considered as a Test venue at some point in the future once we have had time to evaluate its performance in ODI cricket."

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