WALES yesterday landed one of the biggest prizes in sport when it was announced an Ashes cricket Test match will be played in Cardiff in 2009.
The country is in line for an estimated £100m windfall when the third Test in the 2009 series against Australia is played at Sophia Gardens, it was predicted yesterday.
Glamorgan's ground was chosen by the England and Wales Cricket Board ahead of established Test venue Old Trafford and up-and-coming grounds such as Chester-le-Street in Durham and Hampshire's Rosebowl. The prestigious fixture has been described as "one of the most glamorous games in world cricket".
And the number of visitors drawn to Wales because of the game is expected to top half a million, giving a massive boost to the country's economy.
Brian Morgan, a director at Cardiff Business School, yesterday calculated the financial benefit to Wales would be £100m - outstripping all other flagship sporting events staged here in recent years.
He said, "We will probably get at least 100,000 overnight visitors and 500,000 additional visitors just because of an event like that.
"If you do the figures, even a conservative estimate would be that it would bring about £100m into the country."
The announcement was made after a meeting of the ECB decided to award the Cardiff ground "Category A Accredited Venue status", enabling it to stage future Test matches, pending the completion of an ambitious development plan at the site.
ECB major match group chairman Sir Bill Morris said, "We congratulate Cardiff on joining the list of Category A venues.
"We also express our gratitude for the support which the Glamorgan club has received from the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff City Council for their development plans."
Sophia Gardens, which will host its first one-day England international this summer, will join Lord's, The Oval, Headingley and Edgbaston in hosting the series in the summer of 2009.
Glamorgan and England fast bowler Simon Jones, who was part of last summer's victorious England team, said playing in an Ashes Test on his home ground would be a "special feeling", and the equivalent to playing rugby at the Millennium Stadium.
He said he had not expected Cardiff to be awarded such a high-profile Test so soon, but felt the "awesome" ground that is being developed was deserving of such an occasion.
John Stern, editor of The Wisden Cricketer, said it would give a "massive boost" to Welsh sport.
He added, "The Millennium Stadium has gained a huge profile around the world, and for Sophia Gardens, which until now had been regarded for many years as just another county ground, to leap ahead by not just being awarded a Test match, but an Ashes Test - it's really hit the jackpot."
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said last night, "This is a hugely significant decision which puts Cardiff in the super league. With the magnificent Millennium Stadium just around the corner, the Sports Village development forging ahead in Cardiff Bay and plans for a new soccer ground to replace Ninian Park, our capital city will attract sports fans from all corners of the world."
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said, "I can't imagine anything better to raise the profile of Wales in countries where cricket is played such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and southern hemisphere countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
"This would be a tremendous opportunity, both in terms of economic benefit and further strengthening Wales' reputation as a premier location for major sporting events. We are keen to work with Glamorgan Cricket Club and are in discussions with them about how we might be able to support the event."