‘NOW for an Ashes Test!’ That’s the rallying cry from Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove after the successful staging of the stadium’s second Test this week.
England thrashed India by 266 runs to level the series in West End on Thursday.
Despite the first Sunday start to an England home Test, an aggregate attendance of more than 49,000 watched it and the wicket was widely praised.
After missing out on an Ashes Test in 2013 and 2015 during the last allocation, Bransgrove is now targeting one five years hence.
“It's no secret this ground warrants and deserves an Ashes Test match,” said Bransgrove. “It’s a burden being the only ground in this country which has never been awarded an Ashes Test match. That’s a monkey that I want off our back – that’s what we’re working towards.”
Hampshire are currently involved in a consultation process with the ECB before bidding begins for a 2019 Ashes Test.
But they are up against Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, the Swalec Stadium, Chester-le-Street and Old Trafford. The Oval and Headingley already have staging agreements and Lord's is also sure to have an Ashes Test five years' hence.
“There are two Ashes Tests up for grabs,” Bransgrove continued.“It’s harsh but all the other new grounds have been granted this one way or the other.
“It’s the ultimate accreditation, it’s what we all look for and what we’re all pitching for.
“You put the best shows at the best theatres, that’s the hierarchy of performance if you like, and we’re aiming to be a ground outside of the London grounds, which have different reasons for being there.
“And I will stress once again I’m a huge fan of Lord’s. I don’t regard them as competition.
“There’s every justification for playing three games out of seven in London because they’re all sold and do very well.
“Our competition is with the other grounds for the remaining eight Test matches every two years.
“And the way we want to compete for those is by just becoming the best.
“That’s what we have to set out as our ultimate objective. To be the best ground in the country.”
Bransgrove is hopeful he will one day watch an England v Australia Test at the stadium he helped fund.
“I’m very fortunate we’ve got this Test match (v India) and would like every opportunity to demonstrate what we can do,” he continued.
“We haven’t been particularly fortunate or lucky in previous allocations but maybe we haven’t demonstrated to the extent we can now what we can produce.
“I’ve got an open mind about it and would like to think next time round we’ll be well considered.
“If the words and reports that I’m receiving are the genuine reflection of people’s view of this stadium, this stage for cricket, then all other things being equal you’d like to think we should do very well.”
Rod Bransgrove big interview: See today’s Sports Pink