England v Sri Lanka, Twenty20, Rose Bowl

Eye-strain and sunburn at The Rose Bowl

Jenny Thompson watches the World Cup at the cricket

Jenny Thompson at the Rose Bowl

June 15, 2006

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Squint and you'll miss it: the Rose Bowl crowd tries to see the football © Jenny Thompson

Cricket, of course, isn't the new football, as the red-and-white England football shirts sported by many of the Rose Bowl crowd will attest. The West Indian boys of Trinidad & Tobago may have avoided taking one hell of a beating in their World Cup group match, but England's cricket team could at least take heart from their countrymen's victory.

They chose to stay indoors to watch their footballing counterparts until, with ten minutes to go, they eventually jogged on to the pitch and took part in some limbering up. But they still had one eye on the small screens throughout. And when Peter Crouch made the breakthrough it was Paul Collingwood who joined the England support staff - and the 19,000-strong crowd - in some energetic fist-pumping.

The football was of no interest to Sri Lanka, who had the business of preparing for their first-ever Twenty20 and they did so with vigour, practising their drills right across the pitch throughout the second half. And their intensity paid off.

The vast majority of the crowd were delighted that the cricket had been delayed in order for them to watch the football. Unfortunately the match became something of an unwitting spot-the-ball contest, with the crowd scrunching up their eyes to work out what was going on. They soon knew, though, as Crouch fired home and then Steven Gerrard followed up.

It was just a shame that the crowd, in supporting the football, may have added eye-strain to any sunburn they have accrued throughout the day, not to mention the hangovers they will doubtless look forward to tomorrow. Mind you, that's if they get to drink any beer at all.

The NatWest-sponsored beer carriers, which hold four pints, are flimsy affairs and their handles have been breaking all over the shop, causing regular spillages. They aren't a patch on last year's offerings as Dave, a Hampshire regular, explained. "The beer trays were much more aerodynamic last year, much easier to throw in Mexican waves." Which is probably exactly why they've been dispensed with, even if their replacements leave much to be desired. Sorry, Dave.

Meanwhile, Mark, who lives locally, would have stayed in the pub for the football had he known that the screens were so tiny. He chose not to drive, partly so he could drink, but also because, as he says: "Parking is a nightmare." That's a criticism that had been voiced before at The Rose Bowl, following the disastrous staging of the Champions Trophy in 2004. They have addressed some areas though; an open-top bus, one of many, brought us to the ground from the station, and promised to take us back. We just made the last train - but had to leave early.

John and Jeffrey on their way to the Rose Bowl on the open top bus © Jenny Thompson

The lure of a free ticket to the England match wasn't enough to tempt everyone to The Rose Bowl today. John, from a surveyors' company, said he literally couldn't give tickets away to his football-obsessed clients and has, instead, had to give the tickets away to his friends. Not that he's complaining, and neither is Jeffrey, who is coming to his first cricket match.

One man's decision to watch the football in the pub is another man's free entry. "For me the sport is too long," he says, referring to 50-overs and Test fare. Of course, though, he watched the Ashes and now he's up for a bit of, as he puts it, "Wham bam".

But another John, (this one's a marine from Poole), was slightly disgruntled that the price of a seat on the bus has inflated from £2 to £5 in the space of a year. And at £40 a match ticket he feels slightly taken advantage of, although all-in-all he can't say he's too unhappy at what that money will buy him. "You go to a football match and get two hours' of entertainment for that price," he says. "Here, you get a whole day's worth."

John was referring to a day which kicked off at 2pm with the Hampshire Hawks rolling over a PCA Masters side. As last year, when Australia played here, the Hampshire administration opted to sort out a warm-up Twenty20 which provided some amusement ahead of the football. The crowd here certainly warmed to the task of cheering their home side to victory, although their country couldn't quite deliver the goods.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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