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January 20, 2012
Australian cricket has not seen such ferocious demand for tickets since the bloodlust of the 2006-07 Ashes series when Australian cricket fans clicked, clicked, and clicked again to purchase Ashes seats, only to send Cricket Australia's ticket sales operator into meltdown.
There was no website crash today but it took just 30 minutes* for the WACA to sell out ahead of Saturday night's Big Bash League semi-final between the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Stars.
There are mitigating factors of course. The WACA, alongside Bellerive, is the smallest cricket venue in Australia, with a capacity of around 20,000. The Shane Warne road show is also in town. The 42-year-old has been playing at sold out venues all tournament.
Perth also has form. In 2005, 20,071 fans packed into the WACA for the first professional T20 ever played in Australia, a one-off experimental match between Western Australia and Victoria. Again Warne was in action. But more attended that night than to any international in the preceding 24 years.
But when you consider this is cricket's "show about nothing", a competition that in its current form is as old as David Warner's Test career, with franchises that were created from thin air, featuring players that will only play together for six weeks, it is astonishing to think of the crowd support and television figures the competition has generated. Host broadcaster Fox Sports have boasted record ratings, whilst the crowd numbers have swelled throughout the tournament.
Brisbane had record domestic crowds at the Gabba. The MCG hosted more than 40,000 for a Melbourne derby that was shortened by rain. Likewise, the Sydney derby was rain-affected, yet 31,262 still made the journey to ANZ Stadium in Sydney's west.
Now a sell-out in Perth, and most likely a packed house in Hobart, will witness the inaugural Big Bash League semi-finals.
All of this is even more impressive considering the interest surrounding the longest version of the game has never been stronger. The Border-Gavaskar trophy, already secured by Australia, has played out in front of full houses in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth with the Adelaide Test still to come.
Even the traditionally low-drawing New Zealand managed a record audience at the Gabba for the first Test.
Cricket Australia officials, without precise figures, claim they are on track to register the highest ever combined total attendance for cricket across all forms, both international and domestic, in a single summer.
Given the amount of time, money, and energy they have poured into selling the Big Bash League in its new, and apparently improved format, they would be ecstatic with the results.
With a sell-out already locked in for the first semi-final, it did not need any extra selling points. But someone forgot to tell Brad Hogg. The rejuvenated 40-year-old took umbrage to Melbourne Stars coach Greg Shipperd's criticism of the scheduling, claiming the Stars were unfairly disadvantaged by the two-day turn-around from their Thursday night clash with the Adelaide Strikers to the Saturday night semi against the Scorchers.
Hogg did not miss Shipperd when asked for his thoughts.
"Stop complaining, seriously," Hogg said on Friday. "There are people out there digging holes for a living and we're actually playing cricket. I grew up on a farm and did a lot of sheep work and that. When you do get paid for doing what you love, you appreciate it a lot more.
"There's absolutely no complaints. You can get me on a plane tomorrow and I'll go and play for anyone. I just love the game. So stop whingeing."
Saturday night is suddenly a mouth-watering prospect. With Warne, Hogg, and three hours of action-packed cricket to look forward to, it is no surprise it took 30 minutes to sell out.
* - 14.20GMT - The tickets were sold out in 30 minutes and not seconds, as was earlier reported. The error has been corrected.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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