Channel 4, Sky and BBC fight for England cricket rights

LONDON - A bidding war for the rights to televise England cricket matches is expected to is kick off between Channel 4, BSkyB and the BBC this week.

Bids offered to the England and Wales Cricket Board for television coverage of the matches played between 2006 and 2009 are expected to be submitted by the end of this week.

The bids come following a resurgence in English cricket, which has seen the team defeat the West Indies in Test cricket, and last week crushed world champions Australia by six wickets on the way to the Champions Trophy final.

Channel 4 and BSkyB have retained the rights to the international and domestic England cricket matches including Tests and one-day internationals since 1999. Insiders at the ECB expect the broadcasters to win the contract again -- the third in a row.

ITV and Five have officially ruled themselves out of the game. But the BBC, which has been without rights since 1998, is considering a bid.

It would be a coup for the BBC, which was the home of cricket for many years before losing the terretrial rights to Five, to win cricket back.

The last three-year deal with Channel 4 and BSkyB was worth in excess of £40m from each broadcaster.

It is believed that the deal will be made before the England team leaves for its controversial tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa in November.

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