Top End will not host Tests till 2007

Published: Thursday, September 2, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Cricket Australia announced that it was dropping plans to hold more Test matches in the northern cities of Cairns or Darwin until at least 2007.

Chief executive James Sutherland on Thursday said Cairns and Darwin were being temporarily dropped as Test venues so Australia could focus on retaining the Ashes trophy in England next year.

The so-called Top End series in the two northern cities started in 2003 with two Tests and a one-day match against Bangladesh.

This year Australia hosted Sri Lanka for a Test in each of the cities.

But Sutherland said the Australian team would not play up north again before Zimbabwe and Bangladesh tours to the country in 2007 and 2008.

"Our absolute priority and focus in 2005 is on retaining the Ashes Trophy in England, which rules out any possibility of bringing cricket to the Top End next year," he said.

Cricket Australia would however try to organise a series of A-level international matches for northern Australia in 2006, he said.

"Cricket Australia is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the International Cricket Council's (ICC) future tours program, which includes an Ashes Series in England next year and a full schedule of international cricket outside Australia in 2006," Sutherland said in a statement.

"As such, we will not be in a position to play either Test or one-day international cricket in Darwin or Cairns throughout this period, but we're investigating all other options available to us, including a possible A-series tournament in 2006," he said.

Prior to 2003, all home Test cricket matches had been played in major state capitals -- Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Sutherland said Cricket Australia remained committed to trying to bring cricket to a broader audience with matches in Cairns and Darwin.

The two matches played in the Top End against Sri Lanka in July failed to draw sizeable crowds.

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