On Friday night, as Australia's cricketers celebrated a memorable victory over South Africa to seal the ODI series at the MCG, the usual crowd of Sydney drinkers had settled into their favourite bars and pubs.
Ten minutes walk from the SCG in Darlinghurst, a patron exclaimed his surprise to a mate that Australia had won from such a parlous position midway through the innings.
"That's a great effort by Smith, can't believe they won that." "Yeah, brilliant, amazing he didn't play the first game in Perth." "They won't drop him again, especially not in Sydney." "When are they playing here again? January?" "Sunday!" "Really? Had no idea..."
Similar conversations were no doubt being had around Sydney, just as they had been in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. Only Canberra natives - rare recipients of international cricket - have seemed generally aware of a notable cricket match about to be played in their midst.
An early start to the international season has seemingly caught the Australian public napping. They are not used to this, World Cup summer or not. The last time November played host to international matches ahead of the first summer Test, it was 2010, and Sri Lanka were making a visit before the Ashes.
Australia's players and coaches were less than enchanted by the thought of limited-overs duty when Sheffield Shield matches might have been a more appropriate way to prepare for five Tests against England, and the crowds seemed to agree. Only 19,309 turned up in Melbourne, 11,495 in Sydney, and the final fixture drew a mere 9,037 to the Gabba.
The conclusion at the time was that most were saving their tickets for the Ashes, and that an underperforming national team was not proving easy to support, let alone love. Sri Lanka remember the series fondly for Angelo Mathews' miraculous retrieval of a seemingly lost cause at the MCG. For Australia, the most memorable moment may be found here.
"CA likes to use the term "premium" to describe their international fixtures, particularly when it comes to packaging up hospitality boxes and assorted offers to attract the corporate schilling. But it now appears logical to conclude that November matches need November prices, whereas January's tickets can expect to be sold at a higher rate"
This summer, the schedule is back-ended still more heavily, with a World Cup at home in February and March following a triangular series with England and India, and four Tests against the subcontinental power. While being played between two of the Cup's more likely contenders, Australia's matches against South Africa have seemed like a dress rehearsal for players and administrators alike.
The World Cup itself has taken a tour of the venues, reminding all present there is more to come. In Canberra, members of the Cup's local organising committee were present to monitor Manuka Oval ahead of its commitments in the new year. And South Africa's cricketers have been grateful for the chance to remind themselves that Australian pitches are not all identically fast, bouncy and seaming, as they so often seem to be in hazy memories of past visits.
But the one thing that has not appeared to be in warm-up mode is the Cricket Australia-determined pricing for these matches. The cheapest seats at the SCG set a spectator back $50, not including other assorted expenses like travel, parking ($25, cash only, in Moore Park) and food and drinks inside the ground. Trackwork on the airport and Bankstown lines this weekend provided a further complication.
CA likes to use the term "premium" to describe their international fixtures, particularly when it comes to packaging up hospitality boxes and assorted offers to attract the corporate schilling. But it now appears logical to conclude that November matches need November prices, whereas January's tickets can expect to be sold at a higher rate.
Such a thought takes on greater momentum when it is noted that both the Big Bash League and the World Cup will offer many cheaper seats than the most affordable on offer at the SCG, and in the post-Christmas holiday period. Family budgets, school on Monday, and a broad choice of matches to pick from this season all would have factored into the thoughts of those who stayed away.
Cricket's primary revenue source is broadcast rights, and television pictures only benefit from bountiful crowds to broadcast into living rooms as a colourful and noisy backdrop to the cricket itself. As the broadcaster Tim Lane noted in The Age following a meagre turnout at the MCG on Friday:
We don't want the soul-less look of big cricket games in empty stadiums here that we see in too many other cricket nations. Tickets should be dirt cheap if that's what it takes. After all, gate money is now a minor component of overall revenue. Crowds must be encouraged at any cost.
In the BBL and the World Cup, this much is understood. For November internationals that few in the public seem to have realised is happening, the incentive to entice fans to the grounds with affordable tickets is even greater. "Premium" thinking can wait until the holidays.