England have turned around what could have been a disastrous summer with two victories in their last two Tests to take a 2-1 lead in their series with India. There has been plenty of drama on the pitch but this summer will also be remembered for a series of incidents at Test match grounds that will have caused concern to the authorities.
With T20 cricket continuing to excite supporters, and a new domestic 50-over competition born, Test cricket could do without any issues that may cause it's own popularity to suffer. This summer though has seen a catalogue of embarrassing moments for the ECB, and the
venues themselves. Only Lords has been immune to any major issues.
In the first Test against India the Trent Bridge Test wicket was heavily criticised by onlookers as it produced a dour Test where the bat dominated the ball for the majority of the game. For one discipline to be so dominant over the other means that the public are not treated to the exciting cut and thrust of Test match cricket which is what they thrive on.
Despite the Test going the full five days the spectators must have felt a little short-changed with the lack of drama and, consequently, Nottinghamshire have been warned by the ICC for an unacceptable Test match pitch after match referee David Boon reported the pitch as poor.
The third Test at Southampton's Ageas Bowl struggled with attendances throughout the game, despite the glorious weather on the south-coast. The scheduling of the game to begin on a Sunday was not ideal but with the ground only ever hosting one previous Test it would seem a great attraction for many in this part of England.
It is also the school holidays so there were many children in the area who could have attended the game. Were the ticket prices the issue here, charging a minimum of £45 a ticket for adults may not be that attractive. Could it be that the location of the ground is also an issue. The Ageas Bowl is outside of
Southampton, meaning extra public transport, park and ride or the additional cost of car parking needs to be also factored in to what is already an expensive day.
Old Trafford's problems in the fourth Test were two-fold. They also suffered with disappointing attendances, and will not be happy with the loss in gate receipts as England wrapped up victory inside three days, but they were also embarrassed on day two when play was halted due to rain mid-afternoon. After a short break the pitch and majority of the outfield was deemed fit, except for an area that had seemingly not drained at all.
Play was suspended for the day as a consequence but spectators were left bewildered as they had perfect cricket conditions but no cricket. To say they were frustrated would be an under-statement as the game was nicely poised with two of England's stars at the crease, Joe Root and Joss Butler, hoping to build a healthy lead for the home side.
Lancashire were forced to issue an apology for the incident.
Compared to other countries England's Test match cricket grounds have generally drawn sell-out crowds, no matter who the opposition, so what has gone wrong this year?
Could England's poor performances over the last year have contributed and the lack of a truly world-class entertainer, like Kevin Pietersen, or have spectators decided that the high prices for Test cricket are simply too much? We are still living in an economy which has not fully
recovered from the recession years so if that is the case then it is understandable but the venues and authorities should be recognising this.
Are India, without the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag no longer the attraction that they have been in the past? It was noticeable that there have been a lack of Indian supporters in the grounds, particularly in Southampton.
With the added competition over the last few years to stage international cricket in England it is more important than ever that grounds produce problem-free games to enhance their chances of staging future matches. Any issues that we have seen this year could well hamper their chances of hosting International cricket in the future, especially as there are many grounds waiting in the wings for a chance themselves.
All the grounds that have had issues this summer will need to learn from their mistakes and learn quickly if they are to avoid losing much-needed revenue in the future. The Oval, the venue for the final Test of the Indian series, will hope for an untroubled five days, as will the ECB.