Noise and passion show success of Cardiff gamble
Thursday 09 July 2009
The jury is still out so far as the pitch goes. But the beer did not run dry, there was more than enough food to feed the 16,000 spectators and England were not left wanting yesterday when it came to passionate and vocal support. Yes, all in all, the world's newest Test ground passed its first examination with flying colours.
According to Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, it is "fitting that the oldest of rivalries in Test match history resumes at the newest of Test venues". Well, that must go down as an interesting use of the word "fitting" but anyone hoping that the controversial move west would end in a lot of egg on a few well-known faces at Lord's was disappointed last night after one day of this Ashes series.
As everyone knows, money has talked in taking Test cricket over the Severn Crossing. To those following it across in their cars, the cost is £5.40. To Glamorgan, the lay-out is believed to have been around £3.2m, with the Welsh Assembly contributing significantly to a bid so grand that the likes of Lancashire, Durham and Hampshire could not compete.
To most people not directly involved, though, the big issue has not been about awarding Cardiff a Test but giving them this Test, rather than letting the ground cut its teeth with a relatively low-profile five-day game against Bangladesh, New Zealand or Sri Lanka.
Fears that the whole thing might go pear-shaped intensified last September when the Swalec Stadium could not cope with some admittedly torrential rain, causing a one-day international against South Africa to be called off after only three overs. Then, earlier this season, the ECB punished Glamorgan for producing a county track that took excessive turn.
So, apart from wondering whether the playing surface and outfield would be up to scratch and fretting over the ground's ability to cope with a capacity crowd, what was there to prevent the top brass of both the ECB and Glamorgan from enjoying a good night's sleep on the eve of this match?
Well, if they were bothered they hid it well. And from the moment the staff managed to get everyone with tickets into the ground in time for a good old Welsh sing-song before start of play, all the planning and preparation appeared to pay off.
Which brings us to Katherine Jenkins. The Welsh soprano belted out "Land of My Fathers" to the delight of just about everyone, it seemed and, with the crowd now in good voice, "Advance Australia Fair" and "God Save the Queen" were given a good airing.
But it was when the action began out in the middle that the singing (or chanting, to be more accurate) reached a new level. Australia's captain Ricky Ponting had suggested that the Welsh would probably support his boys over the English, but there was no real sign of that.
And, according to operations director Simon Lee, more than half of those who have bought tickets for this Test are residents of Wales.
That still leaves a lot from across the bridge, of course, with Lee believing that £25m will be put into the local economy. "But it's not just about the money, it's about people coming to Cardiff, enjoying it and wanting to come back," he said. "We hope to open people's eyes to what Cardiff has to offer."
The Swalec Stadium yesterday became the 100th venue to host a Test match.
Alec's Ashes: Facts from the front line
When Don Bradman made his Ashes debut in the 1928/29 series, former England Test star Percy Fender said the Don displayed 'the most curious mixture of good and bad batting I have seen'. From Alec Stewart's Cricket Companion
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