England to play extra Windies T20s

London: England are to play two additional Twenty20 internationals against the West Indies in September in a bid to fulfil broadcast obligations three years after the collapse of the Stanford Super Series.

Both matches will take place at The Oval, the London home of Surrey, on September 23 and 25.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) faced a problem in honouring a host 260 million ($421 million) broadcast deal with satellite station Sky, signed in 2008.

That was intended to include a Stanford Super Series every November, as well as an Indian Premier League (IPL) type Twenty20 tournament during each English summer.

However, within four months of the inaugural Stanford Super Series in Antigua in November 2008, where a dispirited England lost in the final to what was in effect a West Indian select XI, American businessman Allen Stanford was arrested and accused of being behind a $7 billion (4.3 billion) fraud.

He is currently in prison, where he has been treated for drug addiction, and is due to stand trial in New York on September 12.

When reports emerged in June that the West Indies matches could take place, ECB chairman Giles Clarke conceded admitted broadcast agreements had been a factor in the scheduling.

But he insisted there were other reasons, both in terms of aiding the financially-stricken West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and helping England prepare for the defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next year, for the games to go ahead.

"We have a contractual commitment to Sky and BBC," Clarke said.

"We have said we are interested in more preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup. The new captain (Stuart Broad) would benefit from more opportunity to captain."

He added: "There is the economic situation in the West Indies. It is important to try to redress the balance economically of their game. It is important West Indies cricket is financially successful. I`m not looking at it as two games, but more than that. We want to attract the Caribbean community in this country back into cricket grounds," explained Clarke.

There has been a decline in the number of expatriate West Indian cricket followers and their families who attend international matches in England in recent years.

This has been particularly evident at The Oval, which long boasted a strong West Indian presence among the crowd on account of the significant Afro-Caribbean population in the vicinity of the South London ground.

"We are not looking at these games as vast money-spinners for English cricket," Clarke added.

And Surrey chief executive Richard Gould, in a statement issued Wednesday, emphasised that point by announcing unusually low ticket prices for an international match in England.

"We want both games to be played in a friendly party atmosphere with a large turnout from local residents in Lambeth and London, which is why tickets have been priced from only $41, with 16 tickets on sale for $1.63," Gould said.

The West Indies were set to stop in Britain that week in any event en route for a tour of Bangladesh.

England have already played three Tests, a Twenty20 and five one-day internationals against Sri Lanka so far this season.

They currently lead India 2-0 in a four-Test series that precedes a Twenty20 international and five-match one-day series against the 50-over world champions which will conclude in Cardiff on September 16.

Bureau Report

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