Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Disarray And Frustration...And That’s Just Off The Pitch

Day 4 of the Boxing Day Test. So this is was to be the moment when the Ashes would be reclaimed. Only 3 wickets to go and the English supporters could finally reflect on a tour to Australia that hadn't descended into farce, humiliation and depression. There would be no miraculous escape for the Aussies. Houdini had been ignored by the Australian selectors for the entire series and he wasn't about to enter the fray now.

A formality surely and the travelling fans packed the early-morning trams. All were after that elusive, 'I was there' moment. To be in position when a splayed wicket, a diving catch or the umpire's raised finger signalled the end of 26 years of hurt.

Talk on the way to the G was of $10 or $15 tickets, maybe $20 at the most. Would they even be free? After all these were to be the last rites. Cricket Australia would grant the Barmy Army its hour or so in the sun.

The farcical scenes at the turnstiles would tell another story.

Surprise, surprise a number of England fans had shown up to buy tickets on the gate. And surprise, surprise the powers-that-be were woefully unprepared as the queues grew longer and longer. Frustration spilled over into anger for some as they saw that around a third of the ticket booths remained resolutely shut.

There would be no concessions either. $31 for all. No matter that the contest could be over in a flash.

No officials were on hand to direct the masses to shorter queues or provide advice and reassurance. The tannoy system was on an endless loop, informing members that they could stroll up to the ground at their leisure and take their seats. Zero queues at the ticket office outside the member's stand...but of course the plebs couldn't purchase tickets here.

The clock was ticking and as the umpires and players ventured into the middle the lines had barely moved. The mumblings of discontent continued. Then a roar from inside the ground indicated that the first scalp had been taken. Many now decided to hot-foot it to a bar or big screen to watch the conclusion. Those who remained did so in hope rather than expectation of seeing any cricket at all.

Beyond ridiculous. It can't have been often that the travelling contingent have been praying for the Aussie batsmen to stick around as victory loomed. But this was the case and thankfully Haddin and Siddle did just that and provided some last-gasp entertainment to boot.

This defiant partnership, rather than a welcoming and organised approach outside the ground, ensured that the majority of the fans had their, 'I was there' moment.

There was much to enjoy. KP acknowledging the Barmy Army following his boundary catch, the happy and bouncing embrace as the final wicket fell, the endless flags swirling in the breeze, the victorious lap of honour and the 'sprinkler' dance to round things off. Not to mention Ponting's post-match interview. He answered the tough questions openly and honestly, drawing warm applause from the England fans.

So another Boxing Day test ends. One of the greatest sporting events in the world in one of the greatest stadiums.

Long may it remain so. It will as long as the authorities start putting the fans first.

There was talk of a record crowd on Boxing Day. 85,000 is hardly a disaster but there was to be no new milestone, despite the delicately balanced state of the series beforehand.

With other forms of the game competing hard with test cricket for the fans' bucks, now is not the time for complacency from those running the game.

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