Stephen Brenkley: Giving Wales an Ashes Test is not cricket

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The Independent Online

To many observers, the prospect of staging an Ashes Test match in Wales may be slightly less appropriate than holding an eisteddfod in Bulgaria. In both cases, the events are private affairs which may garner international recognition but really have little to do with anybody else.

When the announcement was made yesterday (about the Test match in Sophia Gardens, the eisteddfod in Sofia presumably having to wait) it was almost as great a sensation as England regaining the Ashes. Glamorgan's petite but poky home ground in Cardiff will be the venue for a match in the series against Australia in 2009, probably the third.

The Welsh county had been making noises about having a Test of some sort, Bangladesh maybe, or if they were eager for Antipodeans, New Zealand at best. But Australia were out of the question.

For a while yesterday - long enough to be fingered by the political correctness police - it felt as though the annexation of English cricket by Wales was complete. It began with the name of the ruling body which inaugurated in 1997, the ECB for short perhaps, but the England and Wales Cricket Board for long.

There have followed in pretty short order: a Welsh chairman of the ECB, David Morgan; a coach who may be Zimbabwean but whose second home is in Wales and whose first job in the United Kingdom was as Glamorgan's coach, Duncan Fletcher; a Welsh deputy chief executive of the ECB, Hugh Morris; and an assistant coach to England who played his entire professional career with Glamorgan, Matthew Maynard.

Although Glamorgan have provided a measly seven of 415 Ashes representatives, England and the English could not say that they were not warned. Those with a true sense of history might have realised that in 1905, Glamorgan applied to stage a Test against Australia and lost out to Trent Bridge by one vote.

Trent Bridge was conspicuous by its absence on the 2009 list yesterday, along with Old Trafford. It is a big call that the E(W)CB have made, bigger still since Cardiff City Council does not consider the planning application for the vital £7m expansion of Sophia Gardens until 10 May.

It is probably money that was the main influence, finance constituting 50 per cent of the so-called Balanced Scorecard against which submissions were assessed. Nobody would suggest that staging an Ashes Test is remotely like acquiring a peerage, but Glamorgan offered the most cash.

But maybe there was a sound cricketing reason, which is that Australia have previous at Sophia Gardens. Last summer, albeit in a one-day international, they lost to Bangladesh. For some people at the EWCB, 2009 cannot come soon enough.

Stephen Brenkley is the Cricket Correspondent of the Independent on Sunday

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