Lots to debate at Rose Bowl’s Test debut

This three-match Test series against Sri Lanka has been very low-key and, sitting here at a drab and rainy Rose Bowl on the eve of the third Test, it is easy to side with those who say that we should not be here at all for an England Test match.

Practice today, on preview day, has been affected and the pre-match interviews with the captains have had to take place in the indoor school. There are no extra temporary stands here, as Hampshire do not expect crowds to be very large. And the radio commentary boxes look out over third man, which is not ideal.

But simply to criticise would not be entirely fair. Hampshire have worked tirelessly to win the chance to stage their first Test match – and become English cricket’s tenth Test venue – and, in particular, their club chairman Rod Bransgrove has fulfilled a great ambition in bringing the England Test team here to the outskirts of Southampton.

He has spent a lot of his personal fortune in developing the Rose Bowl and he would argue that the ground needs Test cricket to survive as a premier sports and events venue in the south of England. I will be speaking to him on Test Match Special during the first day of this game, so it will be interesting to hear his views.

My opinion, in the general debate surrounding England’s Test venues, is that there are counties out there who are currently getting into financial difficulties due to their desire either to remain as primary Test venues or their ambition of joing the club. Would it not just be better to have six main Test grounds, spread regionally, which the ECB help to maintain as venues suitable for staging Test cricket?

Test cricket needs history and tradition, and playing in historic and well-known grounds always adds an awful lot to the occasion. This series, to me, has suffered so far because of two Tests being staged at new international grounds. The same arguments against Cardiff also apply here.

It has been noticeable how Lord’s, during the second Test, managed to sell far more tickets. People still want to watch Test cricket at Lord’s, for its own sake, and I am not surprised at all to hear the rumours that the ECB are about to perform a U-turn and switch one of next summer’s Tests against the West Indies to Lord’s from Cardiff.

That Lord’s also reportedly bid £1 million for that game, whereas Cardiff only guaranteed half of that sum, does make it strange that Lord’s was not chosen originally.

Anyway, back to the Rose Bowl, which is an attractive ground in a lovely setting and I think we should all wait to see how the Test pans out – given reasonable weather of course. There is speculation that the pitch will have been built to last and so bowlers might not have very much in it for them, but again let’s wait and see.

Jimmy Anderson is fit to return to lead the England attack (most probably in place of Steven Finn) and there is no doubt that England missed Anderson at Lord’s.

He seems to relish the responsibility of being the leader of the England bowling pack – however unofficial that title is – and despite his quiet public persona there is not doubt too that he has influence inside the dressing room and I imagine he is not so quiet an individual inside the squad.

England’s bowling was, frankly, rubbish at Lord’s – it was ill-directed, and lacking in quality. Andrew Strauss, in his pre-Test interiew just now, came as close as he is likely to being heavily critical of the bowling in the last Test – when Strauss says it “was not as good as it could be” you know he was very unimpressed with it!

So let’s see what unfolds at the Rose Bowl’s debut Test, although it does seem very strange that not a single one of this summer’s seven Tests, against Sri Lanka and India, are being staged any further north than Nottingham.

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5 Responses to Lots to debate at Rose Bowl’s Test debut

  1. Kieron Lonergan says:

    Very happy to get rid of this silly bidding process. But please can we make sure there is only one test match in London, be it Lords or the Oval

  2. h lyle says:

    Kieron Lonergan – why should there only be one test in London? Lords and the Oval routinely sell out, regardless of the oppposition, which is simply not true of the rest of the test match grounds.
    It may be hard to swallow if you’re from elsewhere in the country, but the fact is London supports test cricket better than anywhere in the world. Which isn’t surprising, given the diversity of the population and the ease of transport links.
    Lords and the Oval deserve their test matches – when the rest of the circuit starts selling out for tests (other than ashes) then maybe revisit it. Until then, no chance.

  3. Kieron Lonergan says:

    No just pure numbers Greater London’s population latest figures is 7.56m England and Wales excluding Greater London is 47.24m

    As for selling out did people buy all those empty seats at Lords the other week and not come?

  4. CityGent says:

    Kieron, London has a population of around 13 million. The population of England and Wales is approximately 54 million. Given Lords and The Oval are the nearest test match grounds for those in East Anglia, Kent, Sussex and the Home Counties, why would it makes sense for only one test to take place in London? While I think three per season is probably too many, two is certainly justified, and that’s before you look at where players would like to play and the demand for tickets. How many of the meagre crowd at Cardiff travelled from England, for example, and how many at the Rose Bowl will travel from areas closer to Lords or The Oval?
    I do agree with Aggers though, not having a game in the cricketing hotbeds of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham does seem an odd decision, and without a sense of tradition.

  5. Tommo says:

    It is not just where you stage the matches but when as well, last year was bizarre having two tests back to back in the midlands followed by two back to back in London. Surely it would have made more sense to split them up a bit.