“The decision, taken by the ICC Board, follows discussions with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) where a range of options were considered to ensure the inaugural final could be staged safely with the potential impact of COVID-19 minimised for all involved,” an ICC statement on Wednesday said. “In selecting The Hampshire Bowl, the ICC drew on ECB’s experience of delivering a full summer of bio-safe international cricket in 2020.
“The venue provides world-class playing and training facilities, giving both teams the best possible environment in which to prepare. Whilst the on-site accommodation will significantly reduce the risk around COVID-19 transmission and better protect the health and safety of everyone involved in delivering the final.”
The ICC confirmation came a day after BCCI president Sourav Ganguly revealed the name of the venue for the game, and hours after the game’s governing body was rocked by news that its chief executive, Manu Sawhney, had been sent on leave following adverse reports about his style of functioning.
For the final, doors might to be thrown open to let spectators in, the ICC said: “Should the UK government’s phased easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures proceed as planned, it is anticipated that a limited number of fans will be allowed into the Hampshire Bowl to watch the final.”
When the ICC Board had approved the inaugural cycle of the WTC, it had informally earmarked Lord’s as the potential venue for the final. Lord’s has hosted several World Cup finals – for both men and women – but it would need the ECB’s nod, which was given the hosting rights for the match by the ICC.
But, according to Ganguly, Southampton emerged as a clear favourite because it is one of the two venues – Manchester being the other – with an on-site hotel, an advantage for teams operating in a bio-secure environment during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having on-site hotels meant both venues hosted international series involving West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia in the summer of 2020.
Southampton was the venue for the first Test against West Indies last July, which was also the first international match and series played during the pandemic. Subsequently, the Ageas Bowl hosted two Tests during the Pakistan series, and later ODIs against Ireland and T20Is against Australia.
Incidentally, Lord’s will be hosting the first match of the two-Test series between England and New Zealand from June 2 to 6.
Geoff Allardice, ICC general manager – cricket, said the governing body was confident the venue would be able to deliver a safe and successful final. “We are confident that in selecting the Hampshire Bowl, we have given ourselves the best possible chance to successfully deliver the final whilst keeping everyone involved safe and healthy and giving fans the opportunity to watch the two best Test teams in the world go head-to-head for the right to call themselves the ICC World Test Champions,” he said.