The Ashes: Why Staging A Test Is Vital To County Hosts

The Ashes: Why Staging A Test Is Vital To County Hosts
17:01, 29 Jul 2019

In the run-up to the Ashes, the talk has been about pitches. To be precise, it’s been about poor pitches. 

Was the wicket at Lord’s to England’s detriment against Ireland, and might they have otherwise looked far more comfortable in the first two days, or did it prove decisive as the visitors batted last on a deteriorating surface? 

It’s curious that comparatively little has been said about the stadia themselves, when so many of them have been redeveloped with exactly the kind of scenes about to enfold in the coming weeks in mind. 

Headingley, for example, will host its first Ashes Test in 10 years, the third of the series, from August 22. 

Edgbaston, Lord’s, Old Trafford and The Oval are the other venues which have been selected. 

Old Trafford has also been redeveloped despite Lancashire recording significant debts last year, a new Hilton becoming the centre-piece – at least from a marketing perspective - of those changes. 

While an eye-watering £80million was spent on bringing the Manchester ground back up to the level required for international Tests, the Ashes Test alone will bring in £5m worth of ticket sales. 

When food and drink is added on top, it’s little wonder that so many grounds are vying for the right to hold a Test.

Over the course of several years, Old Trafford’s renewed capability to stage major international events should see it cancel out the club’s debts. 

The return of Test cricket in the past couple of years has also negated the need to host as many concerts, a bone of contention among the members who were concerned at damage to the outfield. 

There are no doubts about the ground’s capabilities, however, and it spoke volumes that it was selected to host the fireworks of India vs Pakistan at the World Cup in June. The ICC knew that this was the biggest match of the round-robin stage, and deemed Old Trafford the place to host it.  

As for the five county sides who will be hosting Ashes Tests this summer – Warwickshire, Middlesex, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Surrey – they are set to use the money created both to bolster their own coffers and invest in their respective first teams, but also to contribute to grassroots cricket. 

For many, the question of whether the feelgood atmosphere of England’s World Cup success translates into the wider game going forward could be dependent on how the Ashes pans out. 

While it’s true that the urn’s return would be hugely significant for the growth of the game, English counties are going to reap the financial benefits between now and mid-September - whatever happens on the pitch. 

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