Melbourne derby sees record BBL crowd
The Big Bash League enjoyed a landmark day in both Melbourne and Perth on Saturday, as a crowd of 80,883 - a competition record by nigh on 30,000 - packed into the MCG for the Melbourne derby, and the WACA Ground sold out once more for Perth Scorchers' fixture with Sydney Sixers.
Furthermore, 12,901 were at the MCG by the conclusion of the Women's Big Bash League Melbourne derby fixture, a record for a women's domestic game, and a larger crowd than any Women's World T20 final.
In Melbourne, however, the BBL's routine notching of milestones did not come without difficulty. Ahead of the WBBL fixture, as many as 2,000 fans were left outside the MCG as only one general admission gate was opened at the beginning of the match. The crowd more than doubled during the second innings.
For the men's fixture, many thousands were caught out by the stadium's stringent security measures. To illustrate, the crowd at the start of the game stood at about 55,000, and the 80,833 figure was only reached at the innings break as frustrated fans were finally able to enter the stadium. For the Renegades' innings, a queue had snaked all around Yarra Park.
A Cricket Australia statement read: "The Melbourne Cricket Ground has been highly proactive in their security measures for major cricket events this summer. The match tonight experienced an unprecedented record crowd for domestic cricket.
"We thank fans for their patience and apologise for the delays experienced entering the ground tonight. The safety and security of our fans, players and officials is always our number one priority and rest assured we'll continue to work with the MCG to ensure everyone has a fantastic experience at any cricket event this summer."
Despite the difficulties - which reportedly also saw many of the venue's food vendors run dry shortly after the innings break - there was a sense of triumphalism around a fine day for the competition.
"It's been a great day for cricket," said CA's Mike McKenna. "We were absolutely delighted to see crowds across the country come out in force, with record attendances at our men's and women's Big Bash League matches.
"To have more than 80,000 people at the MCG for the local Melbourne derby, then to witness a sell out in Perth for a re-match of last year's final, all on the same day, was a genuine milestone in the short history of the league."
Englishman Luke Wright, who upstaged more celebrated overseas players Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo to score a match-winning century for the Stars, said the crowd sent a message about the competition's pulling power.
"It was one of those moments where until it finishes you can't really enjoy it," Wright said. "I've been lucky enough to play internationally and in the IPL so I know about big crowds. Tonight rather than people abusing you and spitting at you, it was great to have the crowd behind. It just sends a message about how big this competition is.
"You look around and you pinch yourself, we had a feeling it would be big tonight, but obviously not that good. How special was that? To get a win, it's up there with the best cricketing moments of my life."