Warwickshire v Kent, Royal London Cup, Edgbaston September 4, 2014

Warwickshire return to Lord's, but English cricket should worry

39

Warwickshire 219 for 4 (Trott 58, Ambrose 51*, Chopra 50) beat Kent 215 for 8 (Billings 40*, Rankin 3-34) by six wickets
Scorecard

The contrasting expressions on the faces of the players told the story: whatever the gentle decline in popularity of county cricket over the last couple of decades, the prospect of a Lord's final still means a great deal. Warwickshire, winners of the NatWest T20 Blast not two weeks ago, go to the home of cricket with a chance of achieving a notable double.

So what a shame this game was witnessed by so few. Despite Warwickshire's best efforts - tickets cost a maximum of £10 and members of both clubs and U16s were let in free - there were fewer than 3,000 spectators inside the ground.

Compare that with a similar match from the not so distance past. In 1994, these sides met on the same ground in the semi-final of the NatWest Trophy. On that occasion a crowd of around 14,000 created a memorable atmosphere. Somewhere along the way, the game has stopped engaging with the mass market.

This was a match that might be used as a microcosm of much that is wrong in English cricket. On a decent but worn pitch - again, that is not fault of the groundsmen, there are simply no fresh surfaces available at this stage of the season - that will bear no comparison to the surfaces anticipated at the World Cup in Australasia, on a weekday during the school term and in between two high-profile international games on the same ground within the week, there is simply not the time or the appetite for spectators to attend. The schedule is bloated and broken.

It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that, almost a decade after the game all but disappeared from free-to-air television, a decade after central contracts and the increased international schedule snatched the best players from the domestic circuit, cricket is dying in England. Or at least slipping into gentle irrelevance. Like Morris dancing and origami.

Such is the gradual drop in spectator numbers, that this may go unnoticed. But we are fools if we ignore the empty seats at Durham when the Ashes were won, the empty seats in Southampton during the India Test, the drop in average gate numbers for the re-launched NatWest Blast, the reliance on foreign-raised or privately educated players in teams up and down the land and the decline in space offered to the game by newspapers. No amount of hubris can replace the oxygen of publicity. Eden is burning and if the management of the ECB are unwilling to acknowledge and confront the issue, they will have failed in their duty as custodians of the game.

And yet, as this game demonstrated, there is still quality to enjoy. Despite the absence of three first choice bowlers - Chris Woakes, Chris Wright and Keith Barker - Warwickshire demonstrated skill and variety with the ball and athleticism and commitment in the field. While this was not the high-scoring encounter that might have been desired of a show-piece domestic fixture, there was still entertainment to be derived from Warwickshire's masterclass in limited-overs bowling on a pitch a little better than the low scores might suggest.

Boyd Rankin, bowling with the pace and hostility that must have Ireland supporters banging their heads in frustration, claimed three wickets - including both openers due to extra bounce - and struck Alex Blake on the helmet in an impressively sustained spell of fast bowling that earned the Man-of-the-Match award.

Jeetan Patel and Rikki Clarke demonstrated the skill and control that has played such a huge part in their side's progress and Recordo Gordon and Oliver Hannon-Dalby bowled with a maturity that belied their relative inexperience. With Kent restricted to a score perhaps 30 below par, the game was all but over as a contest long before Warwickshire began their reply.

Certainly Varun Chopra and Jonathan Trott were made for run-chases such as this. The pair batted with composure in adding 110 for Warwickshire's second wicket, with Trott compiling 50 from 49 balls with those characteristic clips through midwicket and a series of reverse-sweeps that once won many games for England. By rotating the strike with calm skill on the same pitch on which England were suffocated by India on Tuesday, he provided a reminder of what England had been missing in recent months.

While both men will be disappointed that they failed to see their side home, Tim Ambrose, an often under-rated talent, made sure of the victory with a typically busy half-century.

Perhaps, had Sam Billings - averaging more than 100 in the competition this season - batted higher than No. 8, Kent may have given themselves a batter chance. As it was, by the time he reached the crease in the 38th over, the damage was too deep to be repaired.

And perhaps, had Daniel Bell-Drummond, who scored three half-centuries in six games in the qualifying rounds, been selected ahead of Rob Key or Fabian Cowdrey, they may have a little more firepower.

As it was, Kent struggled to adjust to the surface and, in attempting to post 260, failed to reach the 240 that may have proved adequate. Until Billings thrashed 23 from his final nine deliveries and helped Kent ad 26 from their final two overs, no batsman passed 34 and provided the foundation on which his colleagues might have built.

With Ian Bell and Woakes expected to be fit and available, Warwickshire will present tough opposition in the final. Twenty years after the club completed a remarkable treble of trophies, the class of 2014 are proving worthy successors.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on September 7, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    what about the massive growth in crickets online presence? tickets are incredibly expensive but cricket online is easy and free so i'd be interested to see what being able to follow in such depth online has done for cricket

  • on September 6, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Lots of factors have played a part here. The game in 1994 was pre 20:20, it was scheduled before the football season and it was in the school holidays. For cricket to get decent crowds it really needs to use a bit of common sense. I'm an avid Warwickshire fan and have been for years. I really wanted to support them on Thursday but I was working The last 2 championship games are scheduled with all 4 days landing in the middle of the working week. Brainless! I'd also say that Counties need to look after the paying public much better. Warwickshire had a scheduled game at Rugby School this year in the 50 overs competition. Great support from the town lead to a sell out crowd, but unfortunately the weather was dreadful and it was a complete washout. No refunds! just the churlish and rubbish offer of alternative tickets. yep! you've guessed it! For the 2 mid week games I've already mentioned!! If clubs expect support then they need to support us too!!

  • on September 6, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    @ AckaBilk - (I don't/won't have Sky - that's a separate issue) But... I have to agree with you - Sky in their wisdom - cover the match, but don't report it on the News Sports sections. Can't get my head round that one! Seems down-right crazy to be at a match - and not use your team for an insert to your rolling news output! My point is - cricket as far as Sky is concerned - isn't NEWS! Not too sure about this, but I wonder if that attitude is also connected to crowd numbers.

  • AckaBilk on September 6, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    Looks a poor crowd at Durham today as well.

    Both games being on Sky not a help, but biggest factor is surely that the ties were only determined last Friday - many people will already have committments 6 days before the event

  • YorkshirePudding on September 6, 2014, 6:40 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer, couldn't agree more, unfortunately its about perceived income, is it better to have 1 game with 9000 or 10 group games with 3000. if the tickets are the same price, you get just over 3 times the revenue. ITs a good idea to help develop other OD teams, in the EU, but I would have them go through a premliminary round with the Minor counties with the top N teams going through to meet the counties.

    I would also switch the T20's to Saturday afternoon like football, 3pm start, that way families can attend, after doing Saturday chores as its difficult to leave work get home pick up the kids and get back to the ground for 6pm.

  • jb633 on September 5, 2014, 21:56 GMT

    It is actually refreshing to see that a lot of people commenting here do actually understand the problems our cricket is facing and the danger our game is in right now. English cricket needs an iconic hero right now. There has been no cricketer since Freddie who has captured the imagination of the public. The professionalism of the ECB setup and the constant media line the players have to take has somehow created a distance between national cricketers and the general public. The game needs someone who everyone can relate to and someone the kids will try and emulate in the back garden. KP had it in sparts but we need a Mitchell Johnson, David Warner or even an AB Devilliers figure. I know we are speaking about county cricket here but our game needs a character to get the kids interested which in turn will hopefully get them through the gates at county games. Look at the Sachin effect on Indian cricket. I can't see anyone that fits the bill right now I'm afraid. It is a shame.

  • jb633 on September 5, 2014, 21:46 GMT

    Good article, it is something I have been banging on about for a while now too. I coach a lot of cricket at club level and notice each year we have to work harder and harder to attract the same levels of numbers. There are a few factors leading to the lower participation rates I believe. 1 is the fact that football seems to never have a break now, even pre season games are getting televised in the height of summer and kids are being forced to take pre season fitness and pre season tours slap bang in the middle of cricket season. Secondly I agree with a few comments that the game needs some terrestrial airtime. Thridly I think the fact that cricket coaches are not going into schools is a terrible shame. In most state schools you either play club cricket or you don't play at all. Finally I think the lack of any big names in the county games takes away the entertainment value and the product itself is weak. We need better overseas pros for sure.

  • on September 5, 2014, 20:50 GMT

    comparison with the 1994 game was tough, that was at least during the school holidays in England, this match wasn't. The demands of TV mean the scheduling of games is designed to suit Sky, which doesn't necessarily suit those supporters going to the games, i.e. the quarter finals were played across 3 days, instead of the same day, to get most viewing time. These fixtures then have to get integrated with other domestic cricket and the live games fitted in against the international fixtures. if they want bigger crowds these fixtures need to be played when people are available, it isn't rocket science. They don't play football fixtures during the working day then complain nobody shows up. The Lords final will be a sell out, a game on a Saturday!

  • on September 5, 2014, 20:27 GMT

    Trott was Englands best batsman in 2011 WC .He is needed at that No 3 spot scores faster than cook and more importantly scores .

  • on September 5, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    Have to agree. There are far too many tests and one day internationals each season with the result that they all become non events. I have no interest whatsoever in the current 1 day series with India and wish we could go back to 5 tests in a summer and the touring team actually touring the country. Each test was then an occasion rather than yet another match for the players to fit in.The fixtures this season with no matches on Saturdays and the 50 over matches being played in the evenings seem designed to try and kill off spectator interest completly

  • on September 7, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    what about the massive growth in crickets online presence? tickets are incredibly expensive but cricket online is easy and free so i'd be interested to see what being able to follow in such depth online has done for cricket

  • on September 6, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Lots of factors have played a part here. The game in 1994 was pre 20:20, it was scheduled before the football season and it was in the school holidays. For cricket to get decent crowds it really needs to use a bit of common sense. I'm an avid Warwickshire fan and have been for years. I really wanted to support them on Thursday but I was working The last 2 championship games are scheduled with all 4 days landing in the middle of the working week. Brainless! I'd also say that Counties need to look after the paying public much better. Warwickshire had a scheduled game at Rugby School this year in the 50 overs competition. Great support from the town lead to a sell out crowd, but unfortunately the weather was dreadful and it was a complete washout. No refunds! just the churlish and rubbish offer of alternative tickets. yep! you've guessed it! For the 2 mid week games I've already mentioned!! If clubs expect support then they need to support us too!!

  • on September 6, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    @ AckaBilk - (I don't/won't have Sky - that's a separate issue) But... I have to agree with you - Sky in their wisdom - cover the match, but don't report it on the News Sports sections. Can't get my head round that one! Seems down-right crazy to be at a match - and not use your team for an insert to your rolling news output! My point is - cricket as far as Sky is concerned - isn't NEWS! Not too sure about this, but I wonder if that attitude is also connected to crowd numbers.

  • AckaBilk on September 6, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    Looks a poor crowd at Durham today as well.

    Both games being on Sky not a help, but biggest factor is surely that the ties were only determined last Friday - many people will already have committments 6 days before the event

  • YorkshirePudding on September 6, 2014, 6:40 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer, couldn't agree more, unfortunately its about perceived income, is it better to have 1 game with 9000 or 10 group games with 3000. if the tickets are the same price, you get just over 3 times the revenue. ITs a good idea to help develop other OD teams, in the EU, but I would have them go through a premliminary round with the Minor counties with the top N teams going through to meet the counties.

    I would also switch the T20's to Saturday afternoon like football, 3pm start, that way families can attend, after doing Saturday chores as its difficult to leave work get home pick up the kids and get back to the ground for 6pm.

  • jb633 on September 5, 2014, 21:56 GMT

    It is actually refreshing to see that a lot of people commenting here do actually understand the problems our cricket is facing and the danger our game is in right now. English cricket needs an iconic hero right now. There has been no cricketer since Freddie who has captured the imagination of the public. The professionalism of the ECB setup and the constant media line the players have to take has somehow created a distance between national cricketers and the general public. The game needs someone who everyone can relate to and someone the kids will try and emulate in the back garden. KP had it in sparts but we need a Mitchell Johnson, David Warner or even an AB Devilliers figure. I know we are speaking about county cricket here but our game needs a character to get the kids interested which in turn will hopefully get them through the gates at county games. Look at the Sachin effect on Indian cricket. I can't see anyone that fits the bill right now I'm afraid. It is a shame.

  • jb633 on September 5, 2014, 21:46 GMT

    Good article, it is something I have been banging on about for a while now too. I coach a lot of cricket at club level and notice each year we have to work harder and harder to attract the same levels of numbers. There are a few factors leading to the lower participation rates I believe. 1 is the fact that football seems to never have a break now, even pre season games are getting televised in the height of summer and kids are being forced to take pre season fitness and pre season tours slap bang in the middle of cricket season. Secondly I agree with a few comments that the game needs some terrestrial airtime. Thridly I think the fact that cricket coaches are not going into schools is a terrible shame. In most state schools you either play club cricket or you don't play at all. Finally I think the lack of any big names in the county games takes away the entertainment value and the product itself is weak. We need better overseas pros for sure.

  • on September 5, 2014, 20:50 GMT

    comparison with the 1994 game was tough, that was at least during the school holidays in England, this match wasn't. The demands of TV mean the scheduling of games is designed to suit Sky, which doesn't necessarily suit those supporters going to the games, i.e. the quarter finals were played across 3 days, instead of the same day, to get most viewing time. These fixtures then have to get integrated with other domestic cricket and the live games fitted in against the international fixtures. if they want bigger crowds these fixtures need to be played when people are available, it isn't rocket science. They don't play football fixtures during the working day then complain nobody shows up. The Lords final will be a sell out, a game on a Saturday!

  • on September 5, 2014, 20:27 GMT

    Trott was Englands best batsman in 2011 WC .He is needed at that No 3 spot scores faster than cook and more importantly scores .

  • on September 5, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    Have to agree. There are far too many tests and one day internationals each season with the result that they all become non events. I have no interest whatsoever in the current 1 day series with India and wish we could go back to 5 tests in a summer and the touring team actually touring the country. Each test was then an occasion rather than yet another match for the players to fit in.The fixtures this season with no matches on Saturdays and the 50 over matches being played in the evenings seem designed to try and kill off spectator interest completly

  • ian2208 on September 5, 2014, 14:51 GMT

    Scheduling and the fixture list really is a problem. Surely it should be designed to allow spectators to see the best players as often as possible. So for the T20 they should schedule it firstly so that England players can appear for a few games and secondly so that the foreign stars signed can also play sufficient games to attract good crowds. Neither of those happens. We've seen the showcase Lord's final moved around, now to the end of September, great, where it will be cold and the toss will have even greater impact.

    I used to watch Notts when I was growing up, great days of Hadlee and Rice. A season ticket would see me there for much of my school summer holidays. This summer Notts didn't play one day of County Championship cricket during the school holidays.

    Lose a Test Match and a few ODIs and make the showcase county matches more relevant and important. Won't happen though.

  • CricketingStargazer on September 5, 2014, 12:58 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding When each team plays so many group games I - at least - tend to lose interest well before the end of the league stage. Why we can't have a knock-out tournament where matches actually have pressure on them and, if you lose you are out, I don't understand. The current set-up is better, with Quarter-Finals returning, but there are too many meaningless matches - players don't learn to play under real pressure because they know that if they lose this one there is another game in a couple of days and sides that can't qualify don't need to try in the last few group games.

    No issues with playing the T20 as a league, but let's make the 50 over tournament an FA Cup-style knockout, with all the Minor Counties, the County Boards, The Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and Denmark, maybe even Jersey & Guernsey, all entering at different stages according to their strength and all but the bottom 2 counties in Division 2 entering at the round-of-32 in an un-seeded pure draw.

  • countjimmoriarty on September 5, 2014, 12:00 GMT

    Will Southworth: it would be great in an ideal world for cricket to be on the BBC. In the real world, however, it just is not going to happen. Even if there was the will, there is no way that the BBC could afford the rights. Have you not heard about the licence fee settlement, where real cuts in BBC income are put together with extra expenses (e.g. World Service now from licence fee rather than Foreign Office budget) I'm not a fan of F1, but remember that the BBC ceded exclusive live rights to Sky and take only partial live coverage due to budget redu ctions.

  • on September 5, 2014, 11:53 GMT

    At Chelmsford this season the 50 over day night games were quite poorly attended, but the one 50 over day game - starting at 10.30am had a good crowd. Reason, - many members use public transport, and with a near 10pm finish they can't get home, and also prefer to watch cricket in the sun, not the dew!. Hence they don't go. Also many prefer the shorter 40 overs, but that's gone for the benefit of the England team.

  • brusselslion on September 5, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    The situation is confusing. In a similar vein to @CricketingStargazer, I'm sure that I can remember B&H days at the Oval in the 70s/80s when the ground was (near to) full. However, as @Prendleton correctly states, there were days during this period when Test matches had swathes of empty seats. If the data is available - and someone has the time, it would be more meaningful to compare total county attendances over a30/40 year period i.e. Attendances for CC/B&H/JPL in the 70s vs. CC/RLC/T2020 now.

  • YorkshirePudding on September 5, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer, I agree with you about the knockout format of the older versions, as they added some sense of anticipation and nervousness for the fans, where as the league system doesn't if you lose one game it an be made back.

    Also that they were played on a Saturday or Sunday in July & August enabled grounds to maximise crowds, with family outings or dads spending time with their kids after working in the week.

  • Manxmuppet on September 5, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    The revenue that fee paying TV contracts has brought to English cricket will ultimately lead to its downfall. In order to watch any cricket now one has to pay either a fortune on a Sports Package for your TV or a fortune on the gate. The counties are obviously trying to offer cheap tickets now but the damage has been done, there's no-one left to buy the tickets.

    Unless the ECB can get cricket back to the masses on free to air TV it will continue it's slide into obscurity.

    How about a highlights show each week - a bit like a cricketing equivalent of Match of The Day? I'd watch it if it was on a channel that I could access without tying myself to a contract.

  • Third_slip on September 5, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    On a wider note cricket has been declining in England for years;George is right to point out the disproportionate number of players who either learned the game abroad or who went to fee paying schools. I rarely see children playing cricket in my local park anymore. More needs to be done to get cricket played in more schools (along side "A Chance to Shine maybe?") as Ian Botham recently suggested. As for TV coverage, why can't 3 of the 7 tests and the final/semi-finals of the longer limited overs competition be shown on free-to-air TV? Sky after all, owns the free-to-air channel Pick? Both the T20 and the 50 over comp have too many group games. The latter should go back to being a straight knock out involving Ireland, Scotland, Holland and various Minor Counties with semi finals being played at the weekend. The T20 should go back to 3 groups with each team playing 5 group games. Maybe even Friday night semi-finals? A best of three final played at the homes of the finalists?

  • on September 5, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    Everyone I speak to is of the same opinion. What a stupid idea to play games at this time of year under floodlights. People want to sit outside in the warm sunshine not on a cold September evening. Also if I had gone I could not have got home because of the lack of public transport in the evening. Whilst the schools have been off it would have been the ideal opportunity to encourage youngsters to attend in the daytime and the Semi Finals should have been played at a time when people could attend. As usual the TV audience take priority over the paying public. I can honestly say that since Sky took over the contract for TV I would not recognize any of the current England Team if I saw them in the street even though I attend County cricket almost every day of the season.

  • geoffboyc on September 5, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    Problems partly due to overlap with football season, partly the spill over of the largely unloved 40 over divisional format of recent years and partly because it now falls between the two stools of the slogathon cricket and white kit games. The 50 over Roses game at Old Trafford on a Saturday in July was very poorly attended despite a major promotional effort.

  • on September 5, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    The ECB should be lobbying the BBC as the national broadcaster everyday of the week to get them to cough up for, at the very least, the test rights and the T20 trophy. If they can justify spending 100s of millions of pounds on something as elite as F1 they certainly can do the same for cricket. But I fear that eventually cricket in this country will fade into obscurity mainly because of the administrators' Midas-like greed. As a Bears fan I'll be at Lord's But I fear there won't be much of a turn out. I hope I am wrong.

  • CodandChips on September 5, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    I have high regard for both teams.

    Warwickshire enjoying success in all formats despite 3 of their best bowlers (Woakes, Wright, Barker unavailable). They've got good performances out of Ashes casualties Trott and Rankin. They were hardly the best team of the Blast but won when mattered and played well. Also good to see Ian Bell watching the game. It suggests good things about him and the county, and let's not forget he captained them well at the start of the season.

    Kent invested in their young guns. While they struggled last year, they've done well in this tournament, and are improving in the championship. The likes of Bell-Drummond, Northeast, Billings and Blake are starting to become more than young prospects. And don't forget Adam Riley. Kent are a team on the up.

    A shame about the attendance. Playing during a Thursday doesn't help. For all the issues of 40 over games, starting at 4.30 made them more accessible. But even they had poor attendances.

  • jackiethepen on September 5, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    Durham had no empty seats at the Ashes in 2013. It was also a marvellous success for the Club. What a game. What a finale. What an enthusiastic crowd. As a Club member I know. I was there for the four days. As for Warwickshire - fantastic. What a legacy left by Ashley Giles. He left the club with a structure to continue. They've also played really good Championship cricket since his departure. Note the difference with Lancashire. Strange how Moores's team were relegated after their Trophy and are fighting relegation again. Warwickshire have the right team ethic it seems. Team spirit is the real name. Hope Bell's toe has recovered in the time for the Final. He's a true Bear.

  • Jezc on September 5, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    The scheduling of this tournament was a joke but then again the whole English county season has been a joke. My county, Lancs, had played practically half their county games before the end of May and between the 8th May and the 14th August there were 2 CC games at Old Trafford. In July and August when people in theory have got time to watch cricket Lancs had 3 CC matches. For this 50 over tournament, Lancs played day/nighters on consecutive weekend days which meant the 2nd one was due to finish at 10.00 on a Sunday night. Their other 2 home games were also day/nighters in late August - but who wants to be sat outside at night in Manchester in late August. The old schedule was much better when CC was 3 days and you knew games were weds,thurs, fri and sat, mon and tues with a JPL game on the Sunday Start 4 day games on a Monday - Thursday and leave one day stuff for Friday evenings and weekends. Also schedule any one day finals before the start of the football season

  • CricketingStargazer on September 5, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    It's a far cry from the late 1970s when the County Ground at Bristol was heaving on a Sunday afternoon for JPL games, or the famous semi-Final between Somerset & Essex when the gates were re-opened with the ground full to allow thousands more in who could barely see the middle.

    A surfeit of One-Day cricket killed public interest in England and is threatening to do the same with T20. While I barely miss a day of commentary on the County Championship, I rarely listen now to the T20 and follow the 40/45/50 over competition less closely each year. What is thrilling about a competition with so many group games?

    In the old B&H you had 4 group games and then pure knock-out. The old Gillette/NatWest was pure knock-out starting with the Minor Counties & County Board sides: each game mattered. You had giant-killings & winner-takes-all derbies, not 'if we lose the next two we must win the one after".

    Rant over. Well played Warwickshire, who controlled the game from the start.

  • Vaughanographic on September 5, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    Morris dancing has not faded into general irrelevance, it is more thriving in England now than ever before!

  • on September 5, 2014, 7:32 GMT

    Game scheduled at the last minute, kids back at school, gloomy weather, thursday afternoon - 3000 for me is a good turnout.

  • on September 5, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    I was a county member for many years and always attended the Lords Test. Now I don't watch any cricket except occasionally on Sky. I stopped watching county cricket because the best players were taken away on central contracts and we were left with a succession of players usually from overseas coming and going during the season. I stopped going to tests when the ticket prices increased dramatically and the England side became increasingly populated by foreigners. I want to see England play not a bunch of foreign mercenaries. And then there is the 20/20 rubbish. I can only think that this is designed for people who don't like proper cricket. These days I prefer to be on the golf course.

  • YorkshirePudding on September 5, 2014, 7:01 GMT

    I think people are missing the obfuscating and confusing the real reasons that attendances are low.

    Firstly you have a semi final played on the first day back at school for most children so you wont get families, secondly people have just finished their summer vacations as well as probably paid out a small fortune to one of the 4 local football teams, as well as having to be back at work, and finally who wants to sit for 8 hours in a cricket stadium in early September with temps at 12-13 degrees.

  • pholpin on September 5, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Well done George, another good article. But I see no signs that the ECB is listening!

    I don't buy the argument that 20 county clubs is too many. That misses the point about the product on offer. And if you want to see attendances falling further, just go ahead with the 'franchise' system creating teams with which no-one will identify and see what happens then.

    The ECB must acknowledge the real problem. But they are so chained to the Sky money inflating the pockets of the elite cricketers (no problem with that) and themselves (big problem with that) they don't want to recognise there is a problem at all.

  • jignatiusreilly on September 5, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    Please keep highlighting this issue George.

    The slow decline of cricket in the UK has been happening for the past decade at least. The overwhelming reason for its suffocation has been the removal of cricket (especially test cricket) from free to air TV. I know a lot of my friends who previously watched cricket when it was on who now no longer share an interest as any coverage is hidden and requires subscription TV.

    I'm glad you mentioned the decline in column inches in the papers too, as editors have decided people aren't really aware of cricket, and coverage sinks further inside the paper to irrelevance.

    People in general are ceasing to talk about cricket and the ECB, with myopia created by financial short-termism, are blithely ignorant about the truth facing the game.

    Cricket is being sold for thirty pieces of silver, and as someone who loves the game it is both frustrating and heartbreaking.

  • warnerbasher on September 5, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    The reality is domestic cricket is the testing and grooming gound for the international scene and really shouldn't be seen as anything else. As an observer from the antipodes it would seem that 20 first class teams is way to much and its quite clear that the effect that it has on spreading the talent is a lower standard of cricket. The split divisions help however Australia and England both need to recognise that apart the Ashes the longer form of the game is not going to make you money. I would cram all my money making formats(domestic one dayers 2020 blasts) in the English summer holidays and play your county games outside of these times or at least play your shorter formats on the weekends. The test crowds in England stack up due to the tiny gounds so you can schedule these at any time and leave your shorter form of the game internationals to later in the summer.

  • MrsShandy on September 5, 2014, 0:52 GMT

    Your comments on the Switch-Hit programme were interesting -- would you alter them in light of Warwickshire and Kent on exactly the same wicket, a similar low score in the first innings but with possibly players you discussed: Trott, Rikki Clarke, and young people playing this game? Is the lack of progress in 50-over cricket an English disease generally rather than Cook's/Moores's fault?

  • Robster1 on September 4, 2014, 23:08 GMT

    Decent article - a five day gap between quarter and semi final is quite ludicrous and a symptom of the overcrowded English fixture list. But yes, the removal of cricket from free to air TV is now starting to bite and reducing the numbers of youngsters who will follow the game. International cricket is significantly overpriced. Add in too the confusing nature of county cricket and the ECB have created the perfect scenario to dissipate interest in the sport.

  • on September 4, 2014, 22:16 GMT

    Sad to see the 50 over competition being devalued by this scheduling.The group stages of the Royal London Cup need to be played late April to early June (mainly Friday day/night or Saturdays) and should revert to 3 groups of 7 with international (touring A sides?) and development sides included. That allows the knockout rounds to be played in high summer with proper lead in time for each game. It also enables the T20 group stage to start and finish 3 to 4 weeks later so that county cricket has its strongest commercial product on show mid July to mid August when cricket often has the sporting market place to itself. Its the current positioning of T20 finals day that stops this happening. Move it to the first Saturday of September when there's no Premier League or Challenge Cup Final for that matter. Everything else then falls into place.

  • Prendleton on September 4, 2014, 22:14 GMT

    I get rather confused by this sort of article. It's true there may be a decline in numbers attending cricket, but I'm not sure about this. When I was younger in the 1970s I'm sure there were swathes of empty seats at test matches on many days, and this seems more rare nowadays. Average attendances at 20-20s may be slightly down this year but overall attendances were up by around 100,000 or so if not more, (so congratulations to the organisers - and apparently the weather was better last year) surely a welcome boost for county finances. I hope the current 20-20 format will be given time to bed in (though perhaps it's time for semi-finals to become independent matches). More than that we are in a period where most of our incomes have been dropping in value for years so most of us can;t afford to go so often if at all. So what;s really going on? What are county attendances looking like for this year. The competition has been great in Division 1.

  • on September 4, 2014, 22:08 GMT

    The timing is ludicrous. As a Kent fan who lives in Birmingham I would have loved to have gone today but a Thursday afternoon just isn't convenient. I had to make do with leaving work early and watching on sky.

    I can't understand for the life of me why both semi finals are not on weekends (sat & sun).

    Under 16's for free is completely meaningless when kids are at school.

    If the ECB want people to come & watch they need to schedule more of county crickets big fixtures for weekends when the majority of people are actually free? Can you imagine a professional football match being played on a Thursday afternoon. Outside of the premier league and some championship clubs they'd attract no more than the 3k seen at edgbaston today

  • on September 4, 2014, 21:37 GMT

    Sadly this is yet another depressing example of how domestic cricket has been marginalised. Last week's quarter finals in Chelmsford & Canterbury were played in less than half full stadiums. During the 70s, 80s & 90s all these grounds would have been packed and sold out for such fixtures but who wants to shiver on late August & September evenings watching matches squeezed into gaps in the relentless international schedule just to fill satellite television schedules and with sides depleted by international call ups. This is the same worldwide, another example being the moving of the Sheffield Shield final from Sydney to Canberra earlier this year which actually led to an increased attendance as there are so few matches in Canberra but which was still a negligable turn out compared to a decade or more previously. Domestic cricket needs space to breath but is being suffocated by the relentless international treadmill.

  • richardror on September 4, 2014, 21:36 GMT

    A good article on the decline of interest in domestic cricket derailed when talking about the Kent team. The writer clearly has too little knowledge of the Kent team by suggesting dropping Fabian Cowdrey in favour of DBD to "add firepower".

    A pity for Kent, the final would mean more to them than Warwickshire, but with a young side with a good core, success is sure to come in the future.

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  • richardror on September 4, 2014, 21:36 GMT

    A good article on the decline of interest in domestic cricket derailed when talking about the Kent team. The writer clearly has too little knowledge of the Kent team by suggesting dropping Fabian Cowdrey in favour of DBD to "add firepower".

    A pity for Kent, the final would mean more to them than Warwickshire, but with a young side with a good core, success is sure to come in the future.

  • on September 4, 2014, 21:37 GMT

    Sadly this is yet another depressing example of how domestic cricket has been marginalised. Last week's quarter finals in Chelmsford & Canterbury were played in less than half full stadiums. During the 70s, 80s & 90s all these grounds would have been packed and sold out for such fixtures but who wants to shiver on late August & September evenings watching matches squeezed into gaps in the relentless international schedule just to fill satellite television schedules and with sides depleted by international call ups. This is the same worldwide, another example being the moving of the Sheffield Shield final from Sydney to Canberra earlier this year which actually led to an increased attendance as there are so few matches in Canberra but which was still a negligable turn out compared to a decade or more previously. Domestic cricket needs space to breath but is being suffocated by the relentless international treadmill.

  • on September 4, 2014, 22:08 GMT

    The timing is ludicrous. As a Kent fan who lives in Birmingham I would have loved to have gone today but a Thursday afternoon just isn't convenient. I had to make do with leaving work early and watching on sky.

    I can't understand for the life of me why both semi finals are not on weekends (sat & sun).

    Under 16's for free is completely meaningless when kids are at school.

    If the ECB want people to come & watch they need to schedule more of county crickets big fixtures for weekends when the majority of people are actually free? Can you imagine a professional football match being played on a Thursday afternoon. Outside of the premier league and some championship clubs they'd attract no more than the 3k seen at edgbaston today

  • Prendleton on September 4, 2014, 22:14 GMT

    I get rather confused by this sort of article. It's true there may be a decline in numbers attending cricket, but I'm not sure about this. When I was younger in the 1970s I'm sure there were swathes of empty seats at test matches on many days, and this seems more rare nowadays. Average attendances at 20-20s may be slightly down this year but overall attendances were up by around 100,000 or so if not more, (so congratulations to the organisers - and apparently the weather was better last year) surely a welcome boost for county finances. I hope the current 20-20 format will be given time to bed in (though perhaps it's time for semi-finals to become independent matches). More than that we are in a period where most of our incomes have been dropping in value for years so most of us can;t afford to go so often if at all. So what;s really going on? What are county attendances looking like for this year. The competition has been great in Division 1.

  • on September 4, 2014, 22:16 GMT

    Sad to see the 50 over competition being devalued by this scheduling.The group stages of the Royal London Cup need to be played late April to early June (mainly Friday day/night or Saturdays) and should revert to 3 groups of 7 with international (touring A sides?) and development sides included. That allows the knockout rounds to be played in high summer with proper lead in time for each game. It also enables the T20 group stage to start and finish 3 to 4 weeks later so that county cricket has its strongest commercial product on show mid July to mid August when cricket often has the sporting market place to itself. Its the current positioning of T20 finals day that stops this happening. Move it to the first Saturday of September when there's no Premier League or Challenge Cup Final for that matter. Everything else then falls into place.

  • Robster1 on September 4, 2014, 23:08 GMT

    Decent article - a five day gap between quarter and semi final is quite ludicrous and a symptom of the overcrowded English fixture list. But yes, the removal of cricket from free to air TV is now starting to bite and reducing the numbers of youngsters who will follow the game. International cricket is significantly overpriced. Add in too the confusing nature of county cricket and the ECB have created the perfect scenario to dissipate interest in the sport.

  • MrsShandy on September 5, 2014, 0:52 GMT

    Your comments on the Switch-Hit programme were interesting -- would you alter them in light of Warwickshire and Kent on exactly the same wicket, a similar low score in the first innings but with possibly players you discussed: Trott, Rikki Clarke, and young people playing this game? Is the lack of progress in 50-over cricket an English disease generally rather than Cook's/Moores's fault?

  • warnerbasher on September 5, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    The reality is domestic cricket is the testing and grooming gound for the international scene and really shouldn't be seen as anything else. As an observer from the antipodes it would seem that 20 first class teams is way to much and its quite clear that the effect that it has on spreading the talent is a lower standard of cricket. The split divisions help however Australia and England both need to recognise that apart the Ashes the longer form of the game is not going to make you money. I would cram all my money making formats(domestic one dayers 2020 blasts) in the English summer holidays and play your county games outside of these times or at least play your shorter formats on the weekends. The test crowds in England stack up due to the tiny gounds so you can schedule these at any time and leave your shorter form of the game internationals to later in the summer.

  • jignatiusreilly on September 5, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    Please keep highlighting this issue George.

    The slow decline of cricket in the UK has been happening for the past decade at least. The overwhelming reason for its suffocation has been the removal of cricket (especially test cricket) from free to air TV. I know a lot of my friends who previously watched cricket when it was on who now no longer share an interest as any coverage is hidden and requires subscription TV.

    I'm glad you mentioned the decline in column inches in the papers too, as editors have decided people aren't really aware of cricket, and coverage sinks further inside the paper to irrelevance.

    People in general are ceasing to talk about cricket and the ECB, with myopia created by financial short-termism, are blithely ignorant about the truth facing the game.

    Cricket is being sold for thirty pieces of silver, and as someone who loves the game it is both frustrating and heartbreaking.

  • pholpin on September 5, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Well done George, another good article. But I see no signs that the ECB is listening!

    I don't buy the argument that 20 county clubs is too many. That misses the point about the product on offer. And if you want to see attendances falling further, just go ahead with the 'franchise' system creating teams with which no-one will identify and see what happens then.

    The ECB must acknowledge the real problem. But they are so chained to the Sky money inflating the pockets of the elite cricketers (no problem with that) and themselves (big problem with that) they don't want to recognise there is a problem at all.