Nine days on, and what a difference at the Oval

Just nine days ago the explosive events at The Oval kept a nation rapt as the England cricket team edged towards a famous victory over Australia in the Ashes. Fans paid over the odds for black-market tickets. The daring and the desperate clung to rooftops outside the ground for a view. Kevin Pietersen's heroic match-winning century on the Test's final day was cheered throughout the land.

That was then. Yesterday all but 2,000 of the 23,000 Oval seats were empty for the final match of the county championship between the relegation-threatened Surrey, the home side, and their fierce rivals Middlesex.

The empty banks of seats starkly underlined the fact that while the national side is currently more popular than its footballing counterpart, the county cricket game from which its stars emerge is still a fringe sport in terms of attendances.

The new OCS stand opposite the main red-brick pavilion, a £25m extension opened this season in time for the fifth Test, was closed. So were many of the bars and lounges that helped to keep England supporters lubricated as the moment of victory approached last week. Surrey County Cricket Club enjoyed revenues estimated at £7m for the five-day Test match against Australia. But four-day county games fail with depressing regularity to make a profit.

Paul Sheldon, the chief executive of Surrey, admitted that it had been a disorientating experience to oversee such fluctuating levels of interest. "It's a bit strange but it doesn't surprise me because there is nothing new about it," he said. "We are not going to spend thousands of pounds on marketing this form of the game when we know it is usually very difficult for children or most adults to get here. I think it is regrettable that we don't have more people but that's the way it is." In common with other clubs, Surrey views the county championship as a talent pool for the national side, the game's cash-cow, which helps to fund the counties via the England and Wales Cricket Board. The average Surrey crowd for such a game is little more than 1,000, each paying about £10 a head. Even the Roses match between Lancashire and Yorkshire, which is one of the highlights of the domestic calendar, attracts only about 10,000.

Instead, clubs rely for their income on international matches, Twenty20 games, a shortened and "funkier" form of the game, and corporate events. Surrey even stages an annual Australian Rules football match, flying the teams in from down under, and is considering hosting baseball matches at The Oval.

In the 1950s, packed houses would have watched the exploits of the multi-championship winning teams of Jim Laker and Peter May. But this week the club, a dominant force in the past decade, looked to be doomed to relegation to the second division as Middlesex scored an impressive 404-5 in the first innings.

"We certainly hope to capitalise on the phenomenal rise in popularity in cricket," Mr Sheldon said. "The way we will do that is by going out to the schools and clubs and helping to coach youngsters." In the meantime, the Ashes summer, and those jubilant sun-drenched crowds are only a memory.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine