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Sky Sports has retained the rights to show live domestic and international cricket in England and Wales until the end of 2017.

All of England’s home Test, one-day international and T20 series, selected England Lions and England Women’s fixtures plus comprehensive coverage of domestic cricket will continue to be shown every summer by the pay-TV broadcaster for at least the next six years.

The new deal, thought to be worth around £280m, includes full TV, online and mobile rights and begins in 2014. It includes live and exclusive coverage of England’s home Test series against India (2014), Australia (2015), Pakistan (2016) and South Africa (2017).

Sky’s extensive coverage of the county cricket season will also continue, with at least 60 days of coverage each summer featuring every first-class county and encompassing each of the major competitions.

The new deal will take the broadcaster’s exclusive live broadcast partnership with the ECB into its twelfth year. Sky also the option to extend the deal for an additional two years, covering the tours by India in 2018 and Australia in 2019.

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: “This is good news for cricket and good news for viewers. Our viewers will enjoy a breadth of live coverage, at domestic and international level, and the ECB extends a partnership that has proved good for the game.

“Cricket is flourishing in England and Wales with increased participation, record attendances and success for England’s men and women. Through extending our partnership, the ECB can invest on and off the pitch and the game can continue to grow.”

The ECB put the TV rights for 2014-17 out to tender in November, when all broadcasters were invited to bid for a variety of packages which included the rights to individual Test matches, series or competitions, and a mixture of live and highlights programming.

Winning team: Popular Sky Sports commentators Ian Botham (R), Michael Atherton (C) and Nasser Hussain (R)

Many voices within the sport have raised concerns that the lack of live cricket on terrestrial TV since 2005 has harmed its popularity.

But England’s continue success in the test match arena, including home and away series victories over Australia, and their ascent to the number one spot in the test rankings have ensured that cricket continues to make the headlines.

“No-one should be in any doubt that our partnership with Sky has been of immense benefit to the wider game,” said ECB chairman Giles Clarke.

“Sky Sports has raised the bar for all live television broadcasters with its innovative, informed and comprehensive coverage of cricket and we are very pleased to renew this agreement for a further four years.

“World-class support structures for our successful England teams, major ground improvements at county level, a flourishing coach education programme and a five per cent increase in participation at our ‘Focus’ clubs are all by-products of this relationship.

Sky Sports has broadcast over 150 England Test matches since its first in 1990 – the first Test between West Indies and England at Kingston, Jamaica – which was part of the first ever overseas series to be given live ball-by-ball coverage in the UK.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain made his Test debut in that match and told Sky Sports that their coverage of the game has come a long way in the intervening years.

“It’s fantastic. The people behind the scenes and the technology with new ideas coming in – we’ve covered games in 3D, high definition, spin vision, HawkEye – everything that can be done to make it a better product I think is done.

“The guys behind the scenes are absolutely fantastic. We have fun in the comm box; we have some absolute nutters like Lloyd and some old fogies like Botham and Gower, but we have some great fun because actually the cricket is fun at the moment.

“Covering the game of cricket when England are playing, win or lose, is brilliant.”

Despite the loss of cricket to free-to-air television, Sky Sports has been praised for its pioneering coverage of the sport, and has been voted the ‘Television Sports Programme of the Year’ at the Sports Journalists’ Association awards for the past two years.

The broadcaster celebrated covering its 150th live England Test match in 2010, and has shown live cricket during every month over the last five years.

Its various support programming, including live score updates, features and analysis on Sky Sports News, along with its regular Club Life series, Cricket AM and Cricket Writers on TV will also continue.

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2012 County Cricket Season on Sky Sports – Check out live TV fixtures HERE

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