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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Rose Bowl awaits England debut
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport at the Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl

A capacity crowd of 16,000 will welcome England on their first visit to the Rose Bowl on Friday but perhaps the most excited of them all will be Rod Bransgrove.

"It's designed as a colosseum and I'm convinced that when it's full of baying England supporters on Friday we're going to see the very best of this ground," says Bransgrove, chairman of host club Hampshire.

He has been the driving force in building England's newest international venue near Southampton.

I think this is an outstanding venue
England skipper Michael Vaughan

A multi-millionaire through his pharmaceuticals company he personally under-wrote much of the building project, which has cost 25m so far.

And his ambitions do not stop here as he sees the day when the Rose Bowl becomes the country's eighth Test venue as inevitable.

"This ground was designed as an international arena," Bransgrove tells BBC Sport.

"It's one of only two grounds in the country which have been designed from the ground up as an international ground."

The other one, Durham's Riverside, is 10 years older and took its Test bow when Zimbabwe visited last year.

After outgrowing their old Northlands Road ground, Hampshire moved in 2001 to a new venue, planned and built from scratch with plenty of surrounding space.

July 2003 South Africa beat Zimbabwe by 7 wickets
July 2004 New Zealand v West Indies washed out by rain
Sept 2004 India beat Kenya by 98 runs
Sept 2004 Australia beat USA by 9 wickets
Sept 2004 West Indies beat Bangladesh by 138 runs

The facility is already rated as one of the best in the country and has drawn praise from many of the international visitors so far.

Overlooked by a wooded hill, the pavilion stands proud with its tent-style roof in an oval which has a permanent seating capacity of 9,000, and the space to make that 21,500.

There is barely a bad seat in the house, even in the stands brought in to form a seamless extra tier during the Champions Trophy.

As well as the main playing arena, there is a nursery ground of similar proportions, where Australia were able to hold a full practice during India's match against Kenya.

The ground witnessed its first one-day international last year, when Zimbabwe and South Africa visited.

And it will host the first ever Twenty20 international in England next summer, when Australia begin their Ashes tour.

"I would like much more of that in the future and I've already spoken to the ECB about our plans to put in world-class floodlighting," says Bransgrove.

"But in order to do that I want a commitment from the ECB in the way that Headingley and Trent Bridge have to display England here on a regular basis."

Surrey signed a 20-year staging agreements with the England and Wales Cricket Board before redeveloping The Oval.

Indian supporters
More than 11,000 were at the Rose Bowl to watch India v Kenya

But other deals do not stretch as far and there is likely to be a shake-up of Test grounds in the near future.

Lancashire and Warwickshire are both considering brand new venues because of the difficulties in developing their current grounds, Old Trafford and Edgbaston.

Initial criticism of the Rose Bowl pitch is slowly quietening, although its slow surface still favours bowlers more than many venues.

"At the moment we can provide as good a wicket as any other in the country for one-day cricket but it would be a disaster if we had a Test match and got it wrong," Bransgrove admits.

The Hampshire boss sees the Champions Trophy as an audition for the future, with Friday's fixture and next week's second semi-final as big tests.

"Having seen this stadium over the last few days offering 16,000 seats it has whetted my appetite to make them a permanent fixture," he says.

Interview: Michael Vaughan

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