Pitch report – Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street
We run the rule over the venue for the fourth Ashes Test in Durham, where England have never lost and the batsmen are likely to face their stiffest challenge yet.
<b>Established:</b> 1995<br><b>Capacity:</b> 20,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> No<br><B>Ends:</b> Finchale End, Lumley End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Durham<br><b>Test History:</b> 4 Tests; 4 home wins<br><b>Tosses:</b> 2 batted first (2 wins), 2 bowled first (2 wins)
<b>Overview</b><br>Located in Chester-le-Street, a historic market town in the Vale of Durham, the Riverside Ground will host its first Ashes Test – and fifth overall – this month. Indeed, never has England and Australia's arch-rivalry been staged this North East.
While it always takes a backseat to Lord's, Trent Bridge and The Oval and occasionally Cardiff and Leeds, the ground will be afforded the chance to strut its stuff alongside the venue big boys this time.
With plans aplenty on the cards among ongoing changes and complemented by Lumley Castle in the background, Durham's current ambition must challenge their financial thinking in May, when they rejected the chance to host India for a T20I in 2014 and Australia for an ODI in 2015.
England, meanwhile, have never lost in Chester-le-Street – and <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches/England-V-Australia-5607227.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>fourth Test betting odds</b></a> suggest this trend is likely to continue
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The year was 2009, the opposition inferior and the result decidedly telling – as England romped to victory by an innings and 83 runs for a two-nil series win.
A host attack sporting four specialist seamers and the turn of Graeme Swann dismissed the Windies for 310 and 176, but not before a big century from Alastair Cook and 18 from Ravi Bopara had warranted the decision to bat first to the tune of 569 for six declared.
Rain and bad light had marred proceedings, so much so that day two was a complete no-show. Regardless, conditions played right into the hands of England's selection, which had sacrificed a batsman for an additional bowler.
<b>They Said</b><br>"Our bowlers will need to look after themselves over the next few days to be ready. Durham can traditionally help the fast bowlers, so we would like to exploit that help up there. "Up at Durham might be slightly different and Onions has been in good form all summer, but his selection is nothing to do with him taking wickets at Middlesex." – England coach <b>Andy Flower</b>.
"It will be interesting to see if the wicket is the same at Durham because from what I understand there has been a lot of rain there and in county cricket you would always expect something to be going on for the bowlers with the pitch there, like a bit of seam movement and maybe variable bounce." – former Australia captain <b>Ricky Ponting</b>.
"The Ashes Test match is securing five days of international television coverage for what is by far the most scenic cricket ground in England. Anecdotal evidence based on past sporting events hosted in the North East and the general boost to the economy seen when the region has hosted major concerts, suggest that the region could see a benefit in the region of Ã‚Â£20m from the Ashes test match. This boost is spread across the region's leisure sector, but we'll also see usage of public transport increase and a rise in people attending regional visitor attractions." – North East Chamber of Commerce director of policy <b>Ross Smith</b>.
"As well as producing a winning team it has also been a goal to bring an Ashes Test match to the region and we're delighted that North-East sports fans will have the opportunity to watch the ultimate clash between England and Australia on their doorstep. Riverside has a renowned reputation for successfully hosting international fixtures and we can't wait to begin our preparations for our biggest game to date." – Durham chief executive <b>David Harker</b>.
"There has been a great deal of work behind the scenes to ensure that Riverside continues to develop in order to maintain its position as a leading international cricket venue. For an Ashes Test match to be played at the Riverside will be a huge milestone for Durham County Cricket Club and this achievement is testament to the hard work of all involved." – Durham chairman <b>Clive Leach</b>.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>It's a West Indian rather than an Englishman who tops the run-scoring ranks at Chester-le-Street, but <b>Cook</b> and <b>Ian Bell</b> should soon surpass Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Cook's three knocks have brought an average of 60.00 and Bell's two a whopping 173.00 – admittedly inflated by 2005's 162 not out against Bangladesh.
<b>James Anderson</b> will remember fondly 15 wickets in two matches at 14.00 each – some 16 runs less than his career average. <b>Graham Onions</b> is primed for a recall at his homeground, thanks largely to the County Championship Division One seven-for he clinched at this ground recently.
Let alone their current crop, Australia's entirety have never played a Test match at Chester-le-Street. <b>Phil Hughes</b>, however, struck a fine century for Worcestershire away to Durham last year. <b>Chris Rogers</b>, of course, has encountered the venue on numerous occasions during an extensive county career – and <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches/England-V-Australia-5607227.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power have Rogers at 16/1 odds to score the most runs</b></a> in the first innings.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Intermittent showers, unfortunately, are expected throughout – particularly on day one. Temperatures, meanwhile, will hang around a chilly 18 degrees Celsius. Consistent cloud cover should, too, assist the seam and swing bowlers considerably.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>May, June and July have witnessed three reasonably low-scoring County Championship Division One fixtures at Chester-le-Street, with 79 of a possible 80 wickets falling in the last two fixtures (Durham's tail-ender declaration against Derbyshire prevented a full house).
The past 12 innings have brought only one 300-plus total and the bowlers, particularly the seamers have cherished conditions. Mark Footitt, Chris Rushworth and Onions have filled their proverbial boots here. Anderson, Peter Siddle and company will take note.
England's five-man attack was an ode to overkill in 2009, while the Windies could have done with an additional seamer. Four years later, however, neither the hosts nor the tourists are likely to change their seven-four combination.
The flip of the coin, again, will be key, though isn't a foregone conclusion as in Nottingham, London and Manchester. The toss-winning captain (an Englishman all four times) has opted to bat twice and field twice – leaving a split vote. Overhead conditions, expected to be cloudy on day one, might prefer ball in hand, though.
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