THE start of Test cricket in County Durham will bring a boost to the local economy, business experts believe.

A report by Durham University Business School outlines the potential benefit of up to 60,000 spectators coming to Chester-le-Street during the course of the five-day match with Zimbabwe next month.

Durham County Cricket Club's Riverside ground stages the second of the npower-sponsored series, from June 5 to 9, the first Test match in the region.

Hotels, shops, pubs, restaurants and other commercial outlets are looking forward to increased business.

But should the historic event prove a success, and Durham go on to secure a Test on the cricket calendar for each of the following five years, the report estimates about £12.2m would be generated by fans alone.

Apart from the effects of spectators' spending power, the report points to the media coverage of the event, and its like-for-like value to the region in publicity and advertising through television, radio and national and regional newspapers.

The Business School team estimated this would cost up to £60m in marketing terms to the potential TV, radio and newspaper audience, many of whom could become tourists and investors to the region as a result.

Andy Duff, npower chief executive officer said: "This is good news for the North-East and backs up our findings that sponsoring Test match cricket brings a positive economic benefit to the regions where it is played.

"June 5 will be an historic day when Durham makes cricketing history by becoming the first new Test match ground in 101 years, and the whole region should be celebrating."

The report estimates the average spend of each fan at the Test will be £76.47, with one third of the crowd travelling from outside the region, mainly from Yorkshire, Humberside and the North-West.

Npower, one of the UK's top three energy suppliers, sponsors all Test matches in England.

* Tickets for the Riverside Test match are available by calling the box office on 0191-387 5151, or the 24-hour booking hotline, on 0870-909 0190.