England Test vs New Zealand at Edgbaston to have 18,000 fans a day in Government pilot event

Next month’s Edgbaston Test between England and New Zealand will welcome around 18,000 fans each day after being selected as the first of the Government’s latest pilot events.

Under present guidelines, smaller outdoor venues are only permitted to be at 25 per cent capacity – but the stadium will be 70 per cent full for the second Test against the Black Caps when it takes place between June 10 and June 14.

The agreement was reached by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, with support from Public Health England, the England and Wales Cricket Board, Birmingham City Council and Edgbaston’s dedicated Safety Advisory Group.

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To gain entry to the ground, each ticket holder will need to present a negative NHS lateral flow test, taken within the preceding 24 hours.

All ticket holders must be aged 16 or over, in contrast to the first Test at Lord’s. That match is not part of the pilot programme and MCC has decided to prioritise those who purchased junior tickets to ensure a youthful crowd during half-term.

Welcoming the developments, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “Having crowds back into cricket grounds is so important for the game and for our fans too. The last 15 months have shown just how big a role cricket plays in many people’s lives, and we cannot wait to welcome a growing number of fans back to our stadia over the coming months.”

Southee: Black Caps braced for tough Tests

Seamer Tim Southee says New Zealand are braced for a “very tough” two-Test series against England despite the hosts naming a new-look squad.

England will be without injured duo Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the series – which begins on Sky Sports Cricket on June 2 – as well as Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran who are rested following their endeavours in the Indian Premier League.

Their absence has created room for the selection of uncapped pair Ollie Robinson and James Bracey in a 15-man squad, but Southee says the Black Caps recognise England’s strength-in-depth.

“England are very tough in their own conditions,” Southee said. “They obviously perform pretty well in these conditions so it’s going to be a tough tour.

“They’ve got a few new guys who are probably going to be very, very excited at the opportunity to play for England and try and I guess try to stamp their mark on international cricket.

“They’ve got a massive summer with India coming later in the year so there will be guys trying to force their way into the Test side.

“There are a few guys who have been rested so I’m sure, as it always is, when New Zealand plays England, it’s usually a pretty exciting, pretty close Test series and I imagine this one will be no different.”

Southee is embarking on his fourth tour of England having won his second Test cap against them at Lord’s in 2008 – although this one has a different look – with the World Test Championship against India beginning at the Home of Cricket on Friday, June 18.

Although that means the Black Caps will contest three Tests in as many weeks, Southee insists the workload is manageable and the priority is for the players to get up to speed – a process that begins in earnest next week with a three-day inter-squad game at the Ageas Bowl.

“It’s exciting to play three Test matches in a short space of time; it’s something that we don’t get to do too often,” the 32-year-old said.

“I’m looking forward to getting back into some Test cricket. We’ve come off a bit of a break, which has been nice, and we’ve been able to get some conditioning into our bodies, the guys that have come from the IPL have obviously been playing some cricket.

“So the guys are refreshed in some sort of way, and using the next couple of weeks to get ourselves prepared and ready to play three Test matches.

“They are in quick succession but we have had a chance to prepare physically leading into this with some strength and conditioning stuff. Now, it’s just getting our loads to a point over the coming weeks that we can rock into those three Test matches.”

Watch the first Test between England and New Zealand live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday June 2.

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