Jon Coates, The Scotsman
England and Scotland will lock horns next summer for the first time in a one-day international after a unique deal was struck between the two governing bodies.
The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed yesterday that Paul Collingwood's men would travel north to take on Ryan Watson's amateur side, with a provisional date of 18 August set. No decision has been taken on whether the showpiece will go to Glasgow's Titwood ground or to the Grange in Edinburgh, but either way the fixture will replenish the Scottish game with a "significant six-figure sum", according to Cricket Scotland chief executive Roddy Smith.
After two years of cajoling the Auld Enemy into crossing Hadrian's Wall, Smith stressed that the spin-offs of a layered agreement with the ECB would stretch far beyond the gate receipts taken on 18 August, 2008. The two bodies have entered a pact over "compatibility of television contracts" which will avert "conflicts of scheduling" as Scotland's opportunities in international cricket continue to grow.
Effectively, this means that Scotland won't be able to stage any potentially lucrative offshore internationals without the ECB's consent. But the benefits of the deal appear to far outweigh concerns over "getting back into bed" with the English governing body, which cancelled its annual £105,000 grant to Scottish cricket in 2004.
Apart from England's appointment - they will keep a second in 2012, as long as Scotland maintain one-day international status by qualifying for the 2011 World Cup - Smith has won an assurance from the ECB that the Scottish Saltires will continue to compete "for the foreseeable future" in the Friends Provident Trophy and Scotland A in the 2nd XI County Championship.
Ireland's involvement in the Trophy beyond 2008 is in jeopardy after the Irish Cricket Union agreed to host a televised series between India and South Africa in Belfast, which clashed with live broadcasts of England v West Indies on Sky. Glasgow's gala India-Pakistan clash fell under the radar, winning approval as a charity fund-raiser, but the ECB wanted control of all major matches in the British Isles and dangled various worms in front of Smith, who didn't hesitate to bite.
"What we have managed to do is secure a significant new income stream and a game against England, while securing the future participation of the Saltires and Scotland A in their domestic competitions. It's a win, win, win situation for us," he said.
"I think we will be looking to get 6-7000 people in for the England game plus 1000 in a hospitality marquee. Working on those figures, the match will make us a very significant six-figure sum.
"The heart of our deal with the ECB is that we have agreed to bundle our TV rights together. The Scotland-England match will have a television value, but that coverage will be negotiated as part of their overall rights package. Our TV rights, realistically, are only really attractive when we play India, England or Australia. Everything will have to be done within the agreement. But there is far more commercial value to doing it this way than any other way."
The news was welcomed by Scotland's players following another abandoned ODI. After the thrill of Thursday's narrow defeat to West Indies in Dublin, they travelled to Belfast seeking revenge for their World Cup hammering by the Netherlands. However, the match was washed out after an hour-and-a-half.
For John Blain, who spent almost a decade on the English county scene, the chance to bowl at the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in front of a partisan crowd is one to relish.
"I think Scotland-England is the biggest fixture you can play at any level of any sport," said the fast bowler from Penicuik, a veteran of two World Cups. "It won't be the biggest cricket game Scotland have been involved in but it might be the most historic fixture."It will be interesting to see what Peter Moores, the new England coach, does with the side between now and next August. Some good results and good continuity and they might be a decent side. So it might be daunting. But it's great for the game in Scotland - the public will jump on it."