Cricket World Cup logistics have stymied Wellington fans' hopes of watching the city's first Boxing Day test in 11 years.
New Zealand Cricket confirmed its summer schedule yesterday, with Christchurch's Hagley Oval snaring the Sri Lanka test series opener on December 26 as its first full international.
The Basin Reserve, which hosted the first four Boxing Day tests, will stage the second and final test on January 3, before a run of nine home one-day internationals leading into the World Cup opener against Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval, on February 14.
"Our original draft was to have that first test at the Basin," NZC's head of cricket Lindsay Crocker said.
"But we need to clear the ground in Christchurch from January 19 to set up for Cricket World Cup, which meant the only possible opportunity for us to play a one-dayer in Christchurch was January 11.
"We couldn't play a second test and then still play an ODI on the 11th - there wasn't sufficient time for ground preparation. It just became a matter of logistics so we had to reverse the test match order to get them all in. It [World Cup] made it a real challenge for venue allocation."
The Basin hosted the original Boxing Day test, against India, in 1998. The most recent was against Pakistan in 2003 but NZC has since preferred an Auckland limited overs match on Boxing Day.
With the focus on the 2015 Cricket World Cup, NZC has reverted to having tests over the holiday period, before a run of seven ODIs against Sri Lanka and two against Pakistan.
Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton was involved in scheduling discussions and supported the decision to go to Christchurch on Boxing Day for a "landmark occasion" as it becomes New Zealand's eighth test venue. He believed Basin crowd numbers wouldn't suffer with a shift to early January, which was still within the holiday period.
"It is a unique season given those World Cup matches and clearly that's what's happened in respect of Hagley being given that time to prepare an ODI strip following a test match," Clinton said.
"We're aware of those reasons and, given that, we're comfortable taking that second test, even if it isn't on Boxing Day."
Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval was the other big winner and will host its first full ODI against South Africa in October.
It staged World Cup qualifying matches and the domestic one-day final last season and was seen as the ideal starting point for the home season. Bay Oval will host the Proteas on October 21 and 24, with nearby Hamilton rounding out that three-match series on October 27. Hagley was considered as an October venue but NZC took a cautious approach as the finishing touches are applied.
"It [Hagley] is moving along nicely, but we think that extra period of time in October, when the ground works are settling, it's better we don't have a match that early," Crocker said.
All seven New Zealand World Cup venues will host ODIs in the cup leadup, with Dunedin's University Oval staging a Sri Lanka double-header on January 23 and 25. Wellington's Westpac Stadium also goes back-to- back with Sri Lanka on January 29 and Pakistan two days later.
- The Dominion Post
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