Cricket / Sixth Test: Loyalty despite all the losses: James Allen finds an upbeat mood among England fans at The Oval

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The Independent Online
TEST CRICKET appears to be recession-proof. England are 4-0 down in the series but even if they are defeated here, there is no plan among their supporters to abandon them.

'We have been out-played,' was the succinct summary of events this summer from Julia Webster, here with her husband and sons. They come from Brentwood to the Oval Test every year and plan to do so irrespective of England's fortunes.

Bryan Lacey, also a regular at Lord's and Twickenham, plans to be back. In the Middle Bar he said he thought England had 'probably not had the rub of the green, though you can see from the results that Australia are the better side'.

Jim Parton, a cricket enthusiast who also works for Ladbroke's at the ground, reported that the shop was about one-and-a-half times as busy as for last year's Test against Pakistan. He thought Phil Tufnell should have played instead of Mark Ramprakash and everybody thought England should have played five bowlers. Paul Dalgleish, from Goring, in attendance with his son, said he was quite prepared to pay pounds 20 for tickets 'even when we are losing'.

Khurram Samdani, who was selling cricket equipment, felt England's problems stemmed from poor selection. 'I would still have Mike Gatting in the team instead of Ramprakash,' he said. 'I would certainly take him to the West Indies.'

In The Oval shop, David Gower found favour. 'I think the reason he's not in the side is his book,' Saj Jivraj said. 'Atherton seems a good chap but I was sorry to see Gooch go. I didn't think much of that Dexter bloke though.'

So is he the man responsible for England's demise? Not really, was the general conclusion. Jim Webster said he 'appeared to lack commitment' but he was 'a bit of a scapegoat'. Lacey thought he had put 'a good system in place and we will see the results in the future'.

And people are, of course, coming to see the team, continuing the English love affair with losing.

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