Who England will be playing – and where


We now know more about which English grounds will host international fixtures during the seasons 2017-19. This is the process which the ECB call the ‘major match awards’, the outcome of which they announced yesterday.

What’s the significance? For a start it’s instructive to see the geographical spread of the matches – and which ones you could feasibly attend (if you (a) have the inclination and (b) have the money).

A huge amount was at stake for the counties, who tendered bids to stage ‘packages’ of fixtures. Most of them – both the traditional and new international grounds – have invested tens of millions in upgrading their facilities, in some cases mortgaging themselves to the brink of disaster. Yesterday, for those counties awaiting news, was the equivalent of getting their A-Level results.

How much the counties pay to host games, and exactly how they bid, is opaque, ever-changing, and the source of long-running controversy. The staging fee is a key driver of ticket prices, and varies by package according to exact composition, plus the attractiveness of opposition and scheduling (eg, an Ashes test will cost far more than Bangladesh in May).

As far as I can make out, the ECB do not release precise figures. What a surprise. My understanding is that on average the ECB charge counties between £1 and £2 million to host a test. When the last set of awards were made, in 2011, the Guardian reported that:

The packages announced on Wednesday will earn the ECB a combined total of around £32m in staging fees. It is estimated that the MCC [for Lord’s] spent around £12m on the Premium Package.

This matters for two reasons. The more the counties must pay the ECB, the more they have to pass on to you in ticket prices. And if you support one of those nine test-hosting counties, you don’t want to see your club leverage itself into bankruptcy.

There is a complex and messy political dimension to all this. On the one hand, Giles Clarke is a greedy sod who will screw as much cash as he can out of any situation. He probably puts a paywall on his own holiday snaps. But on the other, he relies on the counties for re-election – which is due in March.

So a deal has been struck. As Nick Hoult reports in the Telegraph:

Under pressure from the counties the ECB tweaked its staging agreements for the 2017-2019 period. Grounds and the ECB will share ticket revenue on matches which are at risk of not selling out, thereby ensuring the county does not take on all losses from poorly attended matches.

Clarke himself says:

A significant amount of work was carried out with the ECB executive and the first-class counties to ensure that these awards are made on a new financial basis which involves the share of risk between the ECB and the grounds. It means that grounds are incentivised to sell out while providing the best possible spectator experience.

Let’s look at the detail of the scheduling. Some of the information published yesterday was already known. The headlines are that Edgbaston and Old Trafford will get Ashes tests in 2019. Lord’s, Headingley, and the Oval were confirmed previously. Trent Bridge, unusually, misses out, as does – dashing their fervent hopes – Hampshire.

Overall the pattern is of drawing back from the outliers and focusing on the traditional host grounds. The ECB’s logic – and in fairness they have a point here – is to avoid swathes of empty seats by concentrating on major population areas. But that’s bad news for spectators who live in the south west and Wales, the south, and the far north. It’s also grim news for the likes of Durham and Hampshire, who have piled so much investment into their grounds.

It’s an opportunity for us to look at the bigger picture of where England are playing – and who against. Adding in the schedules for 2015 and 2016, we can see the wider landscape over five years.



Early-season series – two tests v New Zealand:

– Lord’s and Headingley.


– Edgbaston. Oval, Ageas Bowl, Trent Bridge, Durham. IT20:  Old Trafford.

Prime-summer series – five tests v Australia

– Cardiff, Lord’s, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Oval.

Aus ODIs:

– Ageas Bowl, Lord’s, Old Trafford x 2, Headingley. IT20: Cardiff.


Early-season series – three tests v Sri Lanka:

– Lord’s, Durham, Headingley.


– Trent Bridge, Cardiff, Edgbaston, Oval, Bristol, IT20: Ageas Bowl.

Prime-summer series – four tests v Pakistan

– Lord’s, Old Trafford, Edgbaston, Oval.

Pak ODIs:

– Lord’s, Trent Bridge, Cardiff, Ageas Bowl, Headingley. IT20: Old Trafford.


West Indies ODIs: 

– Bristol, Old Trafford, Oval, Ageas Bowl, Trent Bridge. IT20: Durham.


– Durham, Headingley, Lord’s. IT20s: Cardiff, Ageas Bowl, Taunton.

Champions Trophy

– Cardiff, Edgbaston, and Oval.

Women’s World Cup

– Final at Lord’s (other venues yet to be announced).

June-August series – four tests v South Africa:

– Lord’s, Old Trafford, Oval, Trent Bridge.

August-September series – three tests v West Indies:

– Edgbaston, Headingley, Lord’s.


Early-season series – two tests v Pakistan:

– Headingley, Lord’s

No ODIs v Pakistan.

ODI series v Australia:

– Cardiff, Durham, Old Trafford, Oval, Trent Bridge. IT20: Edgbaston.

Prime-summer series – five tests v India:

– Edgbaston, Lord’s, Oval, Ageas Bowl, Trent Bridge.

India ODIs:

– Bristol, Headingley, Lord’s, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge. IT20: Cardiff.


No early-season test series.

ODI series v Pakistan:

– Bristol, Durham, Headingley, Oval, Southampton. IT20: Cardiff.

World Cup

– Lord’s (final), Edgbaston and Old Trafford (semi-finals), Oval (opening game), Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Headingley, Southampton, Taunton, Trent Bridge (group games)

Test series v Australia:

– Edgbaston, Headingley, Lord’s, Old Trafford, Oval.

No ODI series v Australia.


Lots to talk about there. Let’s do some adding up – and for simplicity we’ll just look, for the time being, at test matches.

Venues – all tests

– Lord’s 9 (27%)

– Headingley 5 (15%)

– Cardiff 1 (3%)

– Edgbaston 5 (15%)

– Trent Bridge 3 (9%)

– Oval 5 (15%)

– Durham 1 (3%)

– Old Trafford 3 (9%)

– Ageas Bowl 1 (3%)

Venues – prime-summer tests

– Lord’s 6 (23%)

– Headingley 2 (7%)

– Cardiff 1 (4%)

– Edgbaston 5 (19%)

– Trent Bridge 3 (12%)

– Oval 5 (19%)

– Durham 0 (0%)

– Old Trafford 3 (12%)

– Ageas Bowl 1 (4%)

Tests by region

– London 14 (42%)

– North (Leeds and Manchester) 8 (24%)

– SW and Wales 1 (3%)

– Midlands (Birmingham and Nottingham) Edgbaston 8 (24%)

– North east (Durham) 1 (3%)

– South (Southampton) 1 (3%)

(I appreciate that my categorisation of regions is subjective. Others might group either Durham or Nottingham with Leeds and separate Manchester. By the same token, Old Trafford, Headingley, Nottingham and Birmingham are all relatively close to each other. And Southampton is not far from London by train).

Tests by opponent

– New Zealand 2 (6%)

– Australia 10 (30%)

– Sri Lanka 3 (9%)

– Pakistan 6 (18%)

– West Indies 3 (9%)

– South Africa 4 (12%)

– India 5 (15%)

– Bangladesh 0 (0%)

– Zimbabwe 0 (0%)

Plenty to chew on there. Any five-year span will always be skewed by your starting point in the cycle – and in this case there are two Ashes series in the sample group. Nevertheless a few trends are clear.

45% per cent of England’s home tests during the next five years will be against Big Three opposition (and there was also a five-test series versus India in 2014, plus the Ashes in 2013). That’s not even including the seemingly irrelevant five-match ODI series against Australia in 2018.

There are only four tests with South Africa, and bearing we mind we had only three against them in 2012, that makes a total of seven home tests in eleven years against one of the genuine superpowers of world cricket. Why do India play a five test series here, but not the Proteas? And do neither Bangladesh nor Zimbabwe (political sensitives with the latter notwithstanding) deserve a single test between them?

In terms of overseas tests between now and 2019, England will play, three ‘in’ Pakistan, four in South Africa, two in Bangladesh, five in India, five in Australia, two in New Zealand, three in Sri Lanka, and three in West Indies.

Turning to the geography. Even as a born and bred Londoner, it strikes me as ludicrous that more than forty per cent of all tests, in this sample period, take place in the capital. Wales, the south west, the north east, and the south, all combined, receive only ten per cent.

Looking through the whole list, perhaps the most striking thing is the sheer quantity of cricket: 33 tests, 33 ODIs, 11 IT20s, a Champions Trophy and a World Cup, in five years. And that’s just at home. Will the players even survive it? Will the public have enough appetite? And will we be able to afford the tickets?


  • Thank you for this.
    The South Africa situation truly breaks my heart. By 2019, we will have completed four traditional four-year cycles of Test cricket since SA last played a five-Test series in England. In 2008 the ECB and CSA were promising to make this an “icon” series, guaranteeing five Tests.
    Yet, during those four cycles, we see the following:

    Australia 25 Tests
    India 17
    West Indies 16
    Pakistan 14
    Sri Lanka 12
    New Zealand 10
    South Africa 10 (first 16 years after readmission: 17)

    Our most closely-matched opponent of the last 20 years, treated like this.

    Utterly shameful.

    • Further to the above, here are the SHORTEST gaps between visits for all major opponents, between SA’s readmission and the end of 2019:

      Australia 2 years (13-15)
      New Zealand 2 yrs (13-15)
      Pakistan 2 yrs (16-18)
      Sri Lanka 2 yrs (14-16)
      West Indies 2 yrs (07-09)

      India 3 yrs (11-14)

      South Africa 4 yrs (94-98 and 08-12)

      And here are the number of times a side has had to wait for longer than four years between visits, over the same period:

      Australia 0

      India 2 (96-02-07)
      Sri Lanka 2 (91-98; 06-11)
      West Indies 2 (95-00; 12-17)

      New Zealand 3 (99-04; 08-13; 15 and whenever)
      Pakistan 3 (96-01-06; 10-16)
      South Africa 3 (98-03-08; 12-17)

      Which country is alone in being worst or joint worst on all three metrics?

      South Africa.

    • Whoever we play, and where ever we play one thing is certain. Fleet streets finest clowns won’t be buying their own tickets, or paying their traveling expenses, or their hospitality at the ground.

      So nothing to see here, please move along. Oh, look over there…………

  • As a Northerner I’d like to concentrate for this comment on the North and a quirk that a number of journos can’t see, but which are important beyond the raw stats.

    Of the 9 Tests in the North (I’ll throw in Durham to H & OT), 4 are “Early Season” Tests. The problem with Early Season Tests in the North is that it’s that much more likely to get rained off. This is further compounded by some combination of ECB rules which means if they bowl even a few overs, you get no money back. This is part of why you will see empty seats at these Tests.

    Of course, another reason is that half the time they are actually scheduled so early in the year that it’s cold. You can drink beer and enjoy a football match in rough weather, but all day, on-off, rain-interrupted grinding cricket, complete with Flower-esque blocking and/or “bowling dry”?

    Unless the ECB have backed off the staging fee much more than reported, fewer and fewer people are ready to fork out that much money for a crappy day, which may be rained off with no refund and all the more so when it comes to thinking about taking your kid along…

    • As an adopted Northerner I point to the 42% of all games played in London. Now we all know that south Londoners think the Thames is the Atlantic but this sized wedge favouring London is a smack in the face for the rest of the population. It stinks. i don’t buy the notion that that’s where a big population is and they traditionally deserve placating. I am sick to death, as I have said here before, of the London centric nature of cricket and indeed all national sports planning. maybe they should change the name to London and bloody well stay there!!

      • I’m a South East Londoner (don’t lump me in with the Putney and Wimbledon lot) and I think we should put a wall up along the A23. Correct on the Thames. I think North London is akin to Greenland.

        One quick point about Lord’s and The Oval. If London was left to scrabble around to get into the Private Members Club as its only chance to watch international cricket within pretty much 100 miles, while I know the north would play the world’s smallest violin, it would be a great shame. I was brought up with The Oval being the “working man’s” test venue in London. Now, I know the world has changed, but it is something to keep in mind for all of us who are not minted in the smoke.

  • Thanks very much for this Maxie. The treatment of teams outside ‘The Big Three’ is just appalling – even if he is thrown out (as I sincerely hope he is) we’ll still be living with the consequences of Giles Clarke’s (and David Collier’s) actions in 2019.

    On venues, I’m a Hampshire fan and have no complaints about losing out. The spectator experience at the ground is poor (particularly access but not only that). As an aside, any idea what would happen to Trent Bridge if they produce another pitch rated ‘poor’?

    On the amount of cricket, it is an overloaded schedule of course. On this week’s Switch Hit one prediction for 2015 is that Jimmy Anderson will retire from international cricket by the end of the year and one can see why. Not only are players likely to burn-out but they aren’t presumably going to be freed up for domestic T20 or the IPL with harmful consequences for county cricket in the former and for player development and player-board relations in the latter.

    Finally, in revealing his masterplan, Giles Clarke said, “at the end of this period our venues will be in a much strengthened financial position which will be of real benefit to the game in England and Wales as it will significantly allow substantial debt repayments”. Hurrah! Follow me and there’ll be less of the debt that I caused! What a magnificent send-off (hopefully) and a fitting memorial to his time at the ECB.

    • Absolutely spot on about the Ages Bowl Simon. Went this year to the test ( Days 3 and 5) and day 5 was an untter shambles. One ticket kiosk open long queues on the motorway. Took me an hour and a half from my house ( near the hospital) to get into the ground. Wrote to Hampshire telling them if they couldn’t cope with 10,000 then what chances an Ashes test. They replied that they were not expecting so many to turn up. That is what happens when you reduce prices (£15 and £1). PLeased the matches are going back to traditional grounds. Durham couldn’t sell out an Ashes test.

  • Stats on ODIs show the same ‘Big Three’ bias as Tests – 44% of England’s home ODIs in the last decade have been against Australia and India (45 out of 103). NZ have had just nine, Pakistan ten and South Africa (the “benchmark” for standards according to Downton recently) eleven.

    45% (15 out of 33) of England’s scheduled home ODIs up to 2019 are again against Australia and India. Pakistan have ten but NZ have only five and South Africa have only three.

    • Or to put it another way England will play SA in home ODIs 14 times 2004-19.

      In the same period they play Australia 38 times.

  • Over the last week or so, I have been trying to pull together a view on the financial status of British cricket and it is not good. I would like to ask if any readers of this site are members of the heavily indebted counties – Warwickshire, Yorkshire, Surrey and Glamorgan, who each have more than £15m in debt! – and if they have access to any financial data. It has proven hard to come up with anything numerical on the web.

    I hope at least that my random posts have dispelled the notion that Giles Clarke has been responsible for pouring a flood of money into the game as a whole. Certain people – such as Team England – seem to have benefitted rather more than others. And the counties are on the edge of the precipice – as far as I can determine.

  • As I write this Ed Smith is on 5 live telling us that he wouldn’t drop Cook. And the reason he gives is he can’t think of anyone else. They must be handing out degrees these days for potato peeling.

    Oh and his other reason is….we have gone this far and it’s too late to change because all the preparation has been done and it’s too late to change. Hey Ed, how about Alf Ramsey dropping Jimmy Greaves on the eve of the World Cup? How about the changes we made on the eve of the 20/20 World Cup? We went on to win both off those. How about Bobby Robson changing it in 1990 World Cup. We went to the semi finals.

    Sport is littered with late changes that worked. How about Denmark in the 1992 European championships. The players were all lying on the beach when Yugoslavia broke up and got thrown out. Denmark went on to win the cup.

  • Massive slap in the face for both Durham and Hants. Yes, both grounds suffer from access problems – both their location outside big cities (the Ageas Bowl is right on the edge of Southampton) and their planning and construction in the 90s, when public transport was a low priority, contribute to this – but it’s a huge backward step which could imperil both of them financially, given they’ve both bet their futures on staging international cricket. Given the amount of cricket to be played, they both could have had a fairer slice of the cake.

    Why does Lord’s have to have two Tests each year? As we’ve had 7 Tests a summer since 2000, each of the traditional grounds could have one and still leave one a year for the emerging venues.

    • Because it’s Lords.

      Sorry if that’s a trite answer, but Lords is not a normal cricket ground for a number of reasons. It’s the home to the great and the good. You only have to see the numerous famous people who attend the test matches. It’s more than cricket. It’s part of the social scene. Wimbledon, Lords test, Royal Ascot etc etc.

      In addition all foreign teams want to play there. Some of them demand it in the tour conditions. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong it just is what it is. Nothing is going to change on that front. At least London has a huge catchment area within the M25.

    • I think the ECB are trying to get round the problem that Warwickshire and Lancs got themselves heavily indebted to improve their grounds for Test cricket. Durham is only about £6m in hock and Hants has a sugar daddy. Lancs and Warwickshire have to pay roughly £1m per year just to service the interest on the debt! They need the games, othewrwise the dreadful financial state of English cricket under the ECB would be too apparent. If only people would stop saying that Clarke has brought money to the counties….

      • I think the reason people assume this is because the counties voted Clarke into position, and then voted for him again. So I guess people think think they support what he has done. Although it appears they are not going to vote for him next time.

        The problem for the counties is unlike Football or rugby there just is not any real opportunity to make large amounts of money from county cricket. The only option (and it is only for the big city grounds) is to give themselves over to a franchise system of 20/20 like a mini IPL. But it would split the counties as some would lose out. The likes of Surrey, Warwickshire (who have started calling themselves Birmingham in ODI is a clue) Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lords, the big test grounds could fill out and make money. But this could end county cricket as we know it. Some would go to the wall. Maybe English cricket can only sustain 10-12 counties.

        You do wonder how the counties entered into spending huge amounts on ground improvements without any real plan to get the money back. And who knows how long Sky will keep putting up big money when the viewing figures are less than darts.

        • “The only option (and it is only for the big city grounds) is to give themselves over to a franchise system of 20/20 like a mini IPL. But it would split the counties as some would lose out”.

          There was discussion about a franchise system on Switch Hit quite recently. If I remember rightly. Mark Butcher and David Hopps were clear something radical needs to be done (although I’m not sure they went the whole hog) – George Dobell was against.

          Someone on the panel (Dobell?) argued one of the likely counties to lose out (Worcestershire) had said they’d accept a payment (£1.3m sticks in my mind) to not play in T20 and make their players available to others. If this is correct, then opinion may be more complex on this than one might have supposed.

          One thing I do know – English domestic T20 is pretty lame compared to what I watched on the Big Bash yesterday. I never thought I’d watch overseas franchise cricket but needs must when you have the ECB!

          • The only way you are going to improve the 20/20 product is to reduce the amounts of teams. So in your example the best Worcestershire players would go and play for Warwickshire or who else they could get a contract from. That is why many think it needs to go down to 10-12 counties. Perhaps Gloucestershire, Somerset, Glamorgan merge into one team.

            But it is a hugely controversial idea. Because the counties who lose out will be frozen out from the one part of the game that is profitable. So, many would find it impossible to continue. Unless there was huge subsidy from the ECB to continue playing county cricket for the sole purpose of creating the next generation of players.

            With all the big overseas tournaments and the huge volume of cricket played it is increasingly difficult to get enough top quality foreign players to come here. At some point something drastic will have to happen. And usually financial disaster is the trigger for a lot of change. There are sugar daddies who are waiting in the wings to take advantage of a profitable opportunity. But these people are only in it for the money and they don’t want anything to do with the unprofitable parts of cricket.

            • The scary thing for the smaller teams is that even the big teams don’t really make that much money.

              As such, even if you improved the player transfer/contracting system, you can’t really make a business out of being a small team that develops good players and then “sells them on.”

              There’s a crunch coming however, because if you look at the subsidy a team like Leicestershire get (being one of the most vulnerable) it’s basically equivalent to the amount of money the ECB is going to have to find to keep Jos Buttler in the game when the Big Bash and IPL come calling with some big offers.

        • It has been said that Surrey CCC is a Conference Centre that runs a cricket team, and hosts international matches.

          It has also been said that there is an agreement in place that wasn’t made available to other international venues when it came to financing the OCS Stand. Now I have no way of knowing whether that is true or not, I just put it out there as something someone told me (and the individual hasn’t given me many duff tips).

          When I was a member there, I did get the annual report and financial statements, but I note that the last one made public appears to be 2012.

  • A lot of people are assuming that Broad and Anderson will be able to slot into action for the World ODI. How realistic is that? We might be stuck with the same seam attack as in Sri Lanka…:(

    • This is a point that has been bothering me for a while. Not looking at a second spinner might be a major strategic blunder. We have some good limited overs spinners in CC. Not going to pull up trees in ODIs perhaps, but less prone to meltdown than some of our young seamers.

      (I don’t agree that the selectors have looked at all the good seam alternatives, but I can accept that there’s no outstanding seam candidate pushing for selection.)

  • As usual the press is leaking the first names on the England world cup teamsheet – these are said to include ……..

    sponge bob square pants
    homer simpson
    fred flinstone
    top cat
    winnie the pooh
    scooby doo
    jessica rabbit
    buzz lightyear
    lala teletubby
    paddington bear

  • Nice to see Edgbaston, Headingley & OT featuring heavily… the latter two give a good coverage to the North and Edgbaston is not a million miles from Cardiff.

    Perhaps I’m a traditionalist but these grounds have a persona and history of their own which adds to the richness of a test series.

  • The quantity of cricket is scary and a lot of players will fall by the wayside.
    The lack of cricket vs South Africa is not good, but hopefully they will move into a normal cycle now.
    I would like to see Pakistan tour of England reduced to 3 tests.

    The location debate is interesting, but I am a staunch traditionalist, if we include Pakistan in the big 4 I believe that the 6 traditional test match grounds should host these teams. With the newer ones fighting to host the other teams.

    One more point which I know upsets people, I’m glad to see Cardiff slipping down the pecking order. I have no desire to see England playing in Wales.

  • Thanks for all your thoughts, input, insight, kind words, and for a lively debate.

    My view – and I say this as someone who’s lived in London for most of his life – is that the capital should not host such a high proportion of test cricket: more than forty per cent, and three every single year. London does not have 40% of the population.

    I take Dmitri’s point about the Oval, but does Lord’s need to have two tests per year?

    The abiding logic should be spreading tests around the country to maximise public access. Broadly, a mix of London-Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds achieves this:


    That list makes quite a strong case for the Ageas Bowl featuring more strongly in allocations. Durham is only 20 miles from Newcastle.

    The ECB can’t help that some of our best and most established grounds are not necessarily in the most populous areas, or that several of them are close together. For example, Trent Bridge is one of the finest grounds in the world (and one of the best atmospheres) but is situated in only the eight biggest city.

    An geographically acute city to host tests would be Bristol – not *too* bad for south Wales and on the train line for most of the SW. But I’m not aware that Gloucs CCC have ever harboured ambitions in that direction – and Nevil Road wouldn’t be the easiest ground to develop to test standard.

    • I disagree Maxie. London deserves the tests because they get the crowds. Look at how Headingley / OldTrafford and Ages Bowl all struggled to shift tickets this summer but Lords and the Oval were sell outs. Yorkshire is a passionate cricket country but they don’t seem too keen on watching international cricket for whatever reason.


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