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Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 17:47 GMT
Cricket's new energy
Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher celebrate in Pakistan
More good news for Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher
Test cricket in England is set to receive a much-needed touch of glamour as part of a new 11m sponsorship deal.

NPower has agreed a three-year deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board with the aim of widening the game's appeal and attracting a younger audience.

The company replace Cornhill Insurance, who ended their 23-year association with Test cricket last year.

Emma Noble, daughter in law of Surrey president and former Prime Minister John Major, joined England skipper Nasser Hussain and batsman Graham Thorpe for the official announcement of the deal at Lord's on Wednesday.

"We are going to market cricket quite aggressively," promised Geraldine Dunne, Npower's External Communications Manager.

Model turned actress Emma Noble
Emma Noble: Bowled over by cricket

It is not the first time the ECB has attempted to apply the phrase 'Blondes have more fun' to cricket, having used model Caprice at the launch for the 1999 World Cup.

Such an approach did not sit well with traditionalists and Caprice herself made no bones about her lack of knowledge of the game's finer points.

"What does lbw mean?" she was asked. "Next question" was her reply.

There have been reports that the likes of Madonna and Liz Hurley may be approached with a view to helping promote this summer's series against Pakistan and Australia.

Quite what pop's number one female artist, otherwise known as Mrs Guy Ritchie, makes of cricket is anyone's guess.

Madonna could make it a family day out by taking her daughter along. Lourdes at Lord's, whatever next?

Such reports are, however, fanciful with Npower quick to play down suggestions that they want to turn Test grounds into new haunts for the paparazzi.

Madonna
Madonna: Always achieves perfect pitch

They are determined to "demystify cricket" and ensure it receives coverage on the front pages of newspapers as well as the back.

"We will need to enlist the help of celebrities, but that won't characterise our relationship with the ECB," insisted Dunne.

The sponsorship agreement is the latest step forward for English cricket in the wake of the team's successses against Zimbabwe, West Indies and Pakistan.

Mobile phone company Vodafone have extended their backing of the England England senior, A and women's teams and the Kwik Cricket programme until 2005.

And the ECB expects to unveil new sponsors for the County Championship and the main domestic knockout competition in the near future.

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See also:

11 Dec 00 |  Cricket
ECB dials up 12m deal
11 Dec 00 |  England on Tour
England claim historic victory
05 Sep 00 |  Cricket
England in search of a sponsor
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