Craig Salmon's soapbox '“ Landmark celebrations disguise five-day Test fears

England's clash against India this week is a truly landmark event. It will be the 1,000th Test match the Three Lions have ever played. However, Craig Salmon wonders whether the longer format of the game will continue to have the same longevity

Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 2:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 3:18 pm
Empty seats in the stand as Englands Alastair Cook waits to face the opening over during day one of the First Test match at Edgbaston, Birmingham

There was a certain irony when the ECB announced the greatest ever England XI – as voted for by the fans.

Cricket supporters from across the country were invited to pick their best team – out of a selection of 100.

The special poll was commissioned to celebrate England’s 1,000th Test match, which got under way yesterday at Edgbaston against India.

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To reach four-figures in terms of Tests played is certainly a monumental and landmark moment for the Three Lions.

And it certainly illustrates the historical presence the sport has enjoyed in this country.

It was certainly hailed by ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison, who said: “To be playing our 1,000th men’s Test match is a true testament to the enduring importance of Test cricket.

“It is the pinnacle for players and fans both home and abroad.

“This selection, chosen by England followers, has Test careers ranging from 1937 to the present day and encapsulates both the history of this great game and showcases the fine players we’ve produced in this country.”

But no sooner had Harrison uttered those words that news was breaking that around 8,000 tickets remained unsold on the eve of England’s Edgbaston clash against India.

And judging by the vast swathes of empty seats on Wednesday, not many were snapped up in the final few hours.

The same is expected for Thursday although Friday is believed to be sold out and sales are going well for Saturday.

You would have thought that England entertaining one of its fellow great bastions of the game would have attracted sell-out crowds – or close to – for every day of the five days.

But, unfortunately, the appeal of the longer format of the game is on the wane and crowds for Test matches have been on a downward spiral for some time.

It provides a worrying contradiction to Harrison’s comment about the “enduring importance of Test cricket”.

Will the sport as a five-day spectacle stand the test of time so that England at some point in the long and distant future will be celebrating their 2,000th match?

Certainly Twenty20 cricket has changed the whole landscape of the sport with players able to earn vast sums of money playing the shorter form of the game.

Today’s modern way of living means fewer and fewer supporters have the time for the longer form of the game and are more inclined to enjoy a night out watching a T20 bash around.

The players still continue to espouse the virtues of Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport, but if its popularity continues to suffer then soon there will be nobody around to watch them play.