England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 1st day July 29, 2004

Age concerns

Roving Reporter by Hugh Chevallier at Edgbaston
Roving Reporter at Edgbaston



Marcus Trescothick: off to a quick start © Getty Images

Spectators queuing to get into Edgbaston this morning - the Heathrow-style frisking and bag-checks ensured there were still plenty patiently grilling under a decidedly warm sun at 10.15 - at least had the distraction of the New Orleans Echoes Brass Band.

They were a very pleasant outfit playing Dixieland standards, and to their rhythms a lady clad in fishnets and (unseasonable) fur was gently cavorting. Nearby, those who had negotiated the airport security were taking a punt with Paddy Power on who would end the Test with most runs. Others had got in the first round of the day and were already contemplating a second pint of Fosters.

In contrast, the Cadbury's stall and, despite the sun, the ice-cream stand had barely a customer. A glance at the age of the spectators offered an explanation. Where were the kids? Yes, the Eric Hollies Stand housed a crèche - sorry, "Pride Side Den" - of 50 or 60 children, but there were very few others.

While the play in the middle early on resembled Twenty20 cricket, with Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss zipping along at more than five an over against some wayward bowling, the clientele around the boundary were a different breed.

Few would advocate the introduction of fairground attractions and face-painting tents to the Test arena, but the absence of children at the beginning of the summer holidays must be a worry. Even those that were here seemed to be humouring their middle-aged fathers. One balding dad was certainly taking far more interest in buying his son a miniature bat than his son was at receiving it.

But the ground was fullish, and Friday and Saturday are both sold out, so where's the problem? Well, like the gently cavorting dancer, a second glance reveals another story. She, a discreet inspection revealed, turns out to be as mature as the average age of the crowd, and most of her dancing days probably lie in the past rather than the future.

Twenty20 has made huge strides towards gaining a new audience for cricket, but as yet there's no certainty that those who have caught the cricket bug are up for bigger doses. The good news is, more of the coruscating batting we saw at Lord's and they are surely bound to come. In the meantime, it's probably best to celebrate all those who do come - children, men with receding hair, gamblers, lager-drinkers and dancers (of all ages).

Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.

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