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Monday, November 19, 2007

Sri Lanka show some determination, but is it enough? Second Test Day 4

Marvan Atapattu (80/ 164b) and Kumar Sangakkara (109 no /198b) provided the stiffer resistance which pre-series form suggested the Sri Lankans were capable of. They took their team to 3/247 and the match into the fifth day.

Whether Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya (33 no/58b) and those yet to bat will be able to add the 260 runs needed to win will keep (or maybe kindle) public interest in tomorrow's play. The pitch is still playing reasonably well and the Australian attack, lacking the injured Andrew Symonds and with Stuart MacGill bowling prodigally, hasn't performed as well as it might have. Even so, Brett Lee (16-2-40-2) has bowled magnificently and without luck: the first ball of the innings almost did for Atapattu, who edged it and was extremely fortunate that it landed just in front of the diving keeper.

If the Sri Lankans are going to win (and I doubt whether they will, but will eat my words if they do) the two now at the crease (apologies for not typing out their names again) and wicketkeeper Jayawardene will need to make most of the runs. The team may even rue omitting Chaminda Vaas: his batting record is better than any of the last four in the current team.

But it's game on, and all cricket followers should be grateful for this.



Today's Australian has a good piece by Peter Lalor "Can Test cricket climb off knees?". It draws attention to several of the challenges facing cricket today.

The sun came out for the cricket at Hobart yesterday, but the crowds stayed away again amid worrying signs that the public is only interested in big ticket Ashes-type Test series and one-off events like Twenty20.

This weekend's Australia-Sri Lanka Test attendances have been blown out of the water by the V8 Supercars and even a protest march against a local pulp mill made the cricket crowds look thin.

The car races, which have been on in Tasmania at the same time as the cricket, attracted a crowd of almost 30,000 yesterday while only 5536 attended Bellerive for the Test.

Even more telling were estimates that at least twice as many people turned out on Saturday to protest on the streets of Hobart against the Gunns' pulp mill than turned out to see a Saturday's play featuring the world's best cricket side.

Admittedly the skies were gloomy on the first day of the weekend, but Australia was batting, Michael Hussey scored a century, Andrew Symonds a 50 and Adam Gilchrist smashed his 100th six for another half century during a day of high entertainment.

Three days of Test match cricket in Hobart has attracted 17,000 people while nearly 60,000 showed up for the V8s in the same period.

On Friday 6249 attended the first day of the Test while 14,755 showed up for a practice session for the V8s at the Symmons Plain race track.

On Saturday the first race of the championship attracted a crowd of 16,102 while only 5381 attended Bellerive and yesterday the V8s reported five times the crowd as that at the cricket.

Chief executive of the V8 Supercars Wayne Cattack said the sport worked hard to promote itself and had attracted 3000 schoolchildren to a special event on Friday that had all the drivers signing autographs in pit lane for 90 minutes.

"We were concerned about the competition with the Test match, we did a very intensive launch and marketing campaign leading up the event and we worked hard," he said.

"We weren't sure how the Test would affect us, Tasmania is not a huge state and you are trying to tap into a limited market and we know there's an overlap between the two sports from our research, but we are delighted with the result."

Cattack said he wasn't aware of how the cricket promoted itself, but pointed out the V8s had flown drivers down two months ago to do publicity and that the stars of the sport had been working hard in the past week at local promotions.

There have been concerns about the health of Test cricket in this series which has failed to ignite public interest.

More fans are expected to turn out to the Twenty20 match between India and Australia in February than will attend any of the Sri Lankan Tests.


The limp cricket attendances coincided with a stand-off between CA and a number of news organisations. The Australian and other News Limited papers were locked out of the first day of the Brisbane Test and a number of international agencies did not resolve their differences until the second day of the Hobart Test.

The latest Sweeney Sports report notes a significant decline in brand awareness from sport fans, although cricket was the exception. Todd Deacon, general manager of the research company, said he thought the decrease may be due to more companies and brands competing for attention in a crowded market. Cricket's 3 Mobile was the only major sponsor to increase its awareness.

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