WELLINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Christchurch’s Hagley Oval will get the first trial of its upgraded facilities ahead of next year’s World Cup with a Boxing Day test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, the country’s cricket board said on Tuesday.
New Zealand’s second-largest city, still recovering from a devastating earthquake in February 2011, will host three pool matches for the Feb. 14-March 29 World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia.
Hagley Park was only given approval by the Environment Court last August, after games had been allocated by World Cup organisers, and officials have been working to ensure the venue is ready for the Sri Lankan tour to test its developed facilities and match-day processes.
The venue will host the first of two tests between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, starting on Dec. 26, and then a one-day international between the sides on Jan. 11 as both teams finalise their preparations ahead of the World Cup.
The will face each other again at the ground in the World Cup opener a little over a month later on Feb. 14.
“Bringing international cricket back to Christchurch was always a priority for NZC (New Zealand Cricket),” head of cricket Lindsay Crocker said in a statement.
“And we feel the Boxing Day test was a good way to celebrate what will be a very special landmark.”
Crocker added that two Twenty20 internationals scheduled for Sri Lanka’s tour had been exchanged for additional one-dayers because of the World Cup.
“The original agreement with Sri Lanka provided for a five-match ODI series and two T20s - but by mutual agreement, again with the (World Cup) in mind, we chose to play seven ODIs,” Crocker said.
The elongated one-day series, three 50-over matches against South Africa in October and two more against Pakistan shortly before the World Cup will also allow the country to test all seven of their venues for the global tournament.
“Three very competitive opponents, the chance to play at all our World Cup venues, and to take the team around the country - we think this offers a good lead-in to the (World Cup),” Crocker added.
New Zealand schedule: Oct. 21 v South Africa, 1st ODI, Tauranga Oct. 24 v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Tauranga Oct. 27 v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Hamilton Dec. 26-30 v Sri Lanka, 1st test, Christchurch Jan. 3-7 v Sri Lanka, 2nd test, Wellington Jan. 11 v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Christchurch Jan. 15 v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Hamilton Jan. 17 v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Auckland Jan. 20 v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Nelson Jan. 23 v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Dunedin Jan. 25 v Sri Lanka, 6th ODI, Dunedin Jan. 29 v Sri Lanka, 7th ODI, Wellington Jan. 31 v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Wellington Feb. 3 v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Napier (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O‘Brien)