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ECB reports record attendances as English summer lives up to the hype

Ticket sales top 3 million for the first time as ECB aim to build on support going into seismic 2020 season

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
The crowds enjoy the action on T20 Finals Day, Edgbaston, September 21, 2019

The crowds enjoy the action on T20 Finals Day  •  Getty Images

England's World Cup success, allied to a thrilling Ashes series and another year of record crowds in the Vitality Blast, all contributed to a record level of ticket sales, according to the ECB, which reports that 3.15 million people attended international and domestic matches this summer.
Those figures, which represent an 18 percent increase on the previous record set in 2017, are a boon for the ECB, which had banked on the twin peaks of the World Cup and the Ashes to drive interest in the sport ahead of next year's launch of their new city-based competition, The Hundred.
And, after a four-year strategy that centred around England's white-ball fortunes, the success of Eoin Morgan's men in lifting the World Cup - and the thrilling manner in which they did so, in the final against New Zealand at Lord's in July - helped to ensure the summer was as successful in the stands as it proved to be on the field.
"Hosting an ICC Men's Cricket World Cup and the Specsavers Ashes Test series in the same season gave us a unique opportunity to bring more people to the game - and we're thrilled that this summer's record crowds have exceeded all our expectations," said Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive.
"We owe a special vote of thanks to the England men's team for matching the women's team's achievement in winning the World Cup on home soil - and, of course, to all our domestic and international venues who played such an important role in delivering our biggest ever attendance figures."
In anticipation of the summer in prospect, almost a third of those 3.15 million ticket sales - 907,000 - were sold before Christmas 2018, while more than 145,000 fans have already registered to enter ticket ballots for 2020.
Those ballots for England's men's matches next summer, against West Indies, Australia and Pakistan, are due to close at seven of the host counties (Durham, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire) at midnight tonight (Wednesday, September 25).
The ECB also reported a record level of occupancy, 92 percent, for England men's bilateral series - five Ashes Tests against Australia, as well as five ODIs and a T20 against Pakistan prior to the World Cup, adding that the Ashes had effectively been sold out by the end of February, compared to mid-June for the last home series in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Vitality Blast reported a seventh consecutive year of growth in advance ticket sales, with just under 950,000 fans attending the 133 fixtures between July and September.
The competition, which was won by Essex for the first time in a thrilling final against Worcestershire on Saturday, will be overshadowed next season with the launch of The Hundred, but Richard Gould, Surrey's chief executive, said that the numbers were proof of the Blast's enduring success.
"We were on track for record sales - in terms of our advance sales - even before the World Cup finished," Gould told BBC Radio London. "Across both the South and North Groups, more and more people are enjoying their experience of attending Blast games and watching their local counties."
England's women also reported a growth in interest despite a one-sided Ashes series, which Australia claimed by 12 points to 4 in the multi-format competition. Ticket sales were up by 12 percent from the 2015 Ashes, at 24,639 compared to 21,926 across the seven matches.
However, that attendance was perhaps less than might have been hoped for in a year in which women's sport achieved exponential growth in other contests - most notably the women's football World Cup in France this summer, but also the ongoing India v South Africa series, for which a near-capacity 6,000 crowd attended the first T20I at Surat on Tuesday.
This summer's total figure for the Women's Ashes was also roughly equal to the 24,000 sell-out that attended England women's World Cup final victory over India at Lord's in 2017.
But overall, the ECB believe that the strength of the sport's existing support, allied to the new audience that they hope to tap into from 2020 onwards, puts them in a good place to build on these numbers in the coming seasons.
"We are committed to capitalising on this opportunity," Harrison said. "And with the launch of our new five-year strategy Inspiring Generations, which has growing the game at its heart, we have ambitions to replicate the attendance figures cricket has enjoyed this summer across future seasons.
"We're also excited to see significant growth in advance ticket sales across all venues. With four international teams touring this country next summer, we're already seeing strong demand for tickets at all venues and we'd urge fans to buy early to avoid missing out on what promises to be another memorable summer of cricket."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket