Three years on, Cardiff is no dream ticket

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The Independent Online

Astonishingly, seats are still available for the First Test in the Ashes series at Cardiff. It is possible to purchase face-value tickets at £70 each for the second day of the match at Sophia Gardens, the most controversial venue for a match between England and Australia since the game at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, in 1902 (which never staged another Test).

There are also plenty of seats available for the final day of the match, although that is usual. While the revamped stadium will be essentially full, it is still surprising that after three years of promotion and expectation there are still empty spaces with only four days to go.

The ground, which has never staged a Test match, was awarded the game because it won the bidding war orchestrated by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Places such as the Riverside, Durham and the Rose Bowl, Hampshire, simply could not compete with the £3 million bid helped by guarantees from the Welsh Assembly.

It is now incumbent on Glamorgan to provide a match to remember. Not only must the pitch be a paragon offering something to both batsmen and bowlers, it must last the best part of five days. Beyond that the match itself must be efficiently organised for fans.

Only if all those criteria are met will the word "success" cross anybody's lips. Over three years the decision to give the Test to Cardiff has hardly grown less surprising. Enormous credit should be paid for the effort and will that has seen a rickety ground transformed but architectural merit played little part in the reconstruction.

Fears that the pitch will be a raging turner are likely to be unfounded. Few wickets have fallen to spin of any kind this season and the probability is it will be a slow seamer. Well-placed pundits are confidently tipping a draw, which is not what the series needs at all.

As at other grounds, the addition of new seats and stands, as well as people, can affect the behaviour of the ball through the air. The outfield has been relaid and has been finished off in the nick of time.

The stadium itself has been given a new name, which is likely not to feature on any official promotional material of the host broadcaster because of a clash with npower, the company which sponsors Test series in this country.

Around lunchtime on Wednesday, it may be possible to discern if a huge, unnecessary gamble has paid off.