8 Jul 2009

International Wire Story

6:26 am on 8 July 2009

Sophia Gardens in Cardiff will make its debut as a test cricket venue tonight when it hosts the opening Ashes test.

The announcement it would host the first England-Australia test in this series, outraged the management of more traditional rival grounds.

The ground has been re-developed so it can now host 15,000 spectators, and has also catered for reverse swing in the past.

But in a sign England will aim to exploit the venue given their advantage in spin bowling, the Cardiff pitch has been labelled poor by officials because of excessive turn.

Adding to the intrigue, groundsman Keith Exton had a media ban slapped on him and details regarding the deck have been sketchy at best.

Australia have played only three one-dayers in Cardiff and England just two, and it will never be forgotten as the scene of the shock loss to Bangladesh in 2005, which was preceded by Andrew Symonds' late-night bender.