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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 12:31 GMT
Welsh dream part of a bigger picture
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Riverside, Chester-le-Street
A view of the Riverside ground from Lumley Castle

When Durham's picturesque Riverside Ground staged its first Test match in the summer of 2003, a frisson of excitement spread around the north-east.

Some of that excitement has spread to Wales, where they are now keen to experience the big time at their Sophia Gardens ground in Cardiff.

A poor Zimbabwe side were beaten in a mere three days up in Chester-le-Street last year but one of the newest first-class grounds had been hailed as a revitalising influence on English cricket at large.

It helped that bright skies prevailed, but spectators travelling there for the first time were impressed by the entire set-up, the fine views from the stands and the general enthusiasm about the place.

What was remarkable was that it had taken 101 years for the authorities finally to grant a Test match to a ground outside the established six venues of English cricket's inner circle.

The Welsh plan - to gain Test status by 2009 - is an ambitious one and will require the Glamorgan faithful to dig deep into their pockets.

Some market research will presumably be required to assess whether the local populace will support a Test match in their thousands.

A Championship match in Cardiff
Empty seats should be rare in any future Test in Cardiff
But many English cricket-lovers based in Bristol and its surrounds will be willing to pay the 4.60 Severn Bridge toll to cheer on the national team at a new venue.

This, of course, brings into play the other issue of an English team playing in Wales.

It's something that, in the temporary absence of Wembley, the English football team have not yet resorted to.

They do, however, play their domestic Cup finals in Cardiff at what is arguably the finest sporting cathedral in the land, the Millennium Stadium.

Thus far, Sophia Gardens has staged three one-day internationals and has also squeezed in crowds double its official capacity of 5,500 for Glamorgan's biggest one-day matches.

Named after the wife of the 19th century Cardiff landowner the Marquess of Bute, it is certainly in the top echelon of first-class grounds in Britain from an aesthetic point of view.

And one man who is definitely a fan of Test cricket being staged on the banks of the River Taff is former England captain Mike Gatting.

Mike Gatting
I think it's actually very good for cricket that bigger, better and more modern grounds are built
Mike Gatting

He told BBC Sport: "The England cricket team are part of the England and Wales Cricket Board so it would be sensible for them to play Test cricket in Wales.

"Updating the facilities at the ground is something that is very much in need in any event.

"But one thing for the people at Glamorgan to think about is whether they would be able to fill the new ground all the time."

Gatting said many non-Test grounds often feel aggrieved that the traditional Test grounds are given extra cash to improve facilities and so should be supported as much as possible.

"I think it's actually very good for cricket that bigger, better and more modern grounds are built all around the country to raise the profile of the game," he added.

Kenya to play their inaugural Test against England in Cardiff in May 2010? Odds against, but don't bet too heavily against it happening.


GLAMORGAN

SEE ALSO
International cricket for Cardiff
21 Nov 02  |  Glamorgan


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