Cricket: Cut-price Test tickets fail to lure spectators

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S FIRST Test against New Zealand is likely to be played out before substantial numbers of empty seats as the cricketing public reacts to the national team's World Cup disappointment.

Officials at Edgbaston predict that the 19,200-capacity stadium could be barely more than half-full for tomorrow's opening day while the traditionally money-making second and third days may fare little better, despite generous reductions in ticket prices.

Last year's opening Test against South Africa attracted a full house for both Friday and Saturday's play and although historically the Kiwis are regarded as one of the least popular visiting sides, ticket sales are bound to be seen by some as disappointing.

Latest advance booking figures show 9,800 tickets purchased for tomorrow's play, with 11,000 sold for both Friday and Saturday and 4,500 for Sunday.

In a bid to stimulate interest, the England and Wales Cricket Board have cut prices by up to 25 per cent for adults compared with 1998. The range at Edgbaston is from pounds 14 to pounds 27, with children under 16 paying half. To watch England's World Cup matches cost from pounds 14 to pounds 60.

Despite the figures, the ECB say they are encouraged. "For a New Zealand series, sales at Edgbaston are slightly ahead," their spokesman Andrew Walpole said. "And figures for the second Test at Lord's are already good, with the second and third days close to selling out.

"If you look at previous series against New Zealand you will see, for example, that the Edgbaston Test in 1990 was watched by only 6,500 on the first day followed by just 10,000 on days two and three."

Meanwhile, police are to monitor behaviour and alcohol consumption among spectators following disturbances during last year's Edgbaston Test, when there were 106 ejections.

No spectators will be allowed to bring alcohol into the ground and bars may be closed without warning.