Everything in place for England cricket visit

THE countdown is underway to the "biggest cricket match ever staged in Scotland" with the Saltires due to entertain England, at the Grange, Raeburn Place, on Monday week.

And, by close of play today, all 4000 seats will be in place around the Edinburgh ground, leaving the way clear for the erection of marquees which will accommodate more than 1000 corporate guests with the remainder of the crowd situated in the pavilion, a historic listed building.

As he surveyed the scene Roddy Smith, Cricket Scotland chief executive, was in no doubt about what is at stake, saying: "This will be the biggest game we have hosted in Scotland without a doubt. England will have a new captain in Kevin Pietersen to add spice to the occasion and that is also bound to fire the imagination.

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"We began chasing this fixture for Scotland around three-four years ago and the catalyst was a longer-term agreement based on the Saltires continuing to enter the Friends Provident League while we have also bundled all of our television rights in to the English and Welsh Cricket Board's deal.

"In all honesty, it would be a huge shock if Scotland were to win, especially as most of the England players will be familiar with the surroundings from visiting with their county sides.

"Scotland are massive, massive underdogs but, as against Pakistan two years ago, we aim to put on a performance which confirms that we are an emergent cricketing nation.

"It is important for us to be competitive so that we look forward even more to facing England again in 2012. Over the past 18 months we have faced all the top Test playing nations except England and this will be the final piece in that jigsaw."

According to Smith, contractors are in the final stages of transforming a "quaint club ground" into a "6000 capacity international arena" with all the legislature and management issues that go with it.

Provided a few hundred remaining tickets are sold in the next few days than the crowd will surpass numbers achieved when part of the 1999 World Cup was staged in Edinburgh. Smith added: "In those days there was only one access to the ground with numbers restricted to 4500 but, with Grange not renewing the lease of the next door bowling club a couple of years ago, we are able to operate a new entrance and erect a marquee there.

"Planning for the entire event started almost immediately the fixture was awarded a year ago when contracts had to be signed with suppliers while Edinburgh City Council's planning organisation group began to be consulted on matters such as road access, policing and other emergency services.

"From now until match-day there will be two full-time project managers – Ramsay Allan and Jim McFadyen – overseeing matters and it promises to be a great sporting occasion."

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If – heaven forbid – rain prevents ten overs being bowled, necessitating refunds, Smith is confident the operation will be smoother than when Australia last visited and fans complained of delays being recompensed.

"This time round we have put ticketing in the hands of an outside agency and, at the push of a button, they would be able to start organising refunds," he said.

Tickets are priced 48 for adults and, explaining the charges, Smith said: "It is not viable for Cricket Scotland to buy grandstands to host one big match a year and each seat costs 15-16 to install in the temporary grandstands.

"Other charges include insurance against bad weather with the premium well into five figures and we've tried to strike a balance between those paying for a seat in the public stands and the corporate market which was an easier sell than might have been expected since the current economic difficulties hadn't kicked in when most tickets were taken up last February or March.

"Next August's visit by the Australians might be more difficult if current economic conditions continue but we are comfortable with pricing arrangements which are less than for, say, a top rugby international with the prospect of seven hours of cricketing entertainment, all going well."