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Twenty20 cash pushes Perth Test aside

Twenty20 cricket has become so powerful on the back of India's wealth that a glorified domestic competition has forced next summer's Perth Test to be moved back almost a week.

While claiming that Test matches remained sacrosanct, Cricket Australia announced last night that the first Test against South Africa would start on December 17 instead of December 12 to fit in the Champions League, to be played in India from December 3 to 10.

The prime motivating force for the move is the $US6million ($6.8m) prizemoney, half of which will go to the winning players and board.

Victoria and Western Australia will compete in the inaugural Champions League along with the top two domestic Twenty20 teams from India and South Africa, and one from England and Pakistan.

India will take 50 per cent of the profit from the event while fellow founding members of the Champions League, Australia and South Africa, will each gain 25 per cent, increasing the incentive for both countries to find a gap in the busy schedule.

As a result, a South African tour match against Tasmania scheduled for December 20-22 will be scrapped. Australia and South Africa will play three consecutive Tests in three weeks.

South Africa will now have only a two-day match in Perth from December 13 to prepare for a heavyweight bout between the top two Test teams in the world, threatening yet another lopsided series against an under-prepared opponent.

However, CA chief executive James Sutherland insisted the Champions League would benefit cricket at all levels in Australia and the other competing countries. "The changes can be made without compromising cricket's premium format and allow the significant benefits which the new Champions League Twenty20 will offer grassroots cricket to be delivered," Sutherland said.

The ICC protested when the Champions League, a spin-off from the spectacular multi-billion-dollar Indian Premier League this year, was scheduled to immediately follow the Champions Trophy, set down for Pakistan from September 12 to 28.

While the ICC managed to have the Champions League moved from its starting date of September 29, an ICC delegation in Melbourne today will have a tougher task convincing CA and its players that the eight-nation Champions Trophy one-day tournament should go on in Pakistan.

The ICC has sent delegations to the northern and southern hemisphere as part of a last-minute scramble to encourage Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand to attend the tournament, which is an important part of its billion-dollar broadcast deal.

Bowler Stuart Clark said today's security meeting would be one factor in whether he decided to go or not, but just as important was the attitude of his pregnant wife at home.

He will not be alone there. Captain Ricky Ponting, who is to attend today's briefing with security experts, ICC representatives and Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson, will be similarly conscious.

Ponting's wife gave birth to their first child last month. Vice-captain Michael Clarke, who recently married, will be present at today's meeting.

Clarke cannot guarantee he will tour next month even if the security reports indicate it is safe to travel.

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