It is possible that two thousand people made their way to Old Trafford last night lured there by this advertisement on Lancashire’s web site or by some other tripe hype.
It was a Wednesday evening. It was very, very cold and blustery. Earlier in the day the prospects for play had seemed uncertain. And Lancashire were playing Northants. But the numbers paying at the gates must have been a disappointment to the authorities.
The throng is part of the T20 experience. There would seem to be a minimum density of crowd and intensity of ‘buzz’ below which a significant part of the attraction is removed. It is obvious, but it needs saying, the fewer the people attending the weaker the draw of the event.
Third Man deposited his son at the indoor school which offered those who did not wish to venture outside this view of proceedings.
He then made his way round to the Pavilion to catch a dozen or so overs of the Lancashire innings.
In truth, the experience was not very enjoyable. The weather must make a huge difference which raises the question: in time, will Clubs that enjoy warmer evenings attract greater crowds, make more money at the gate and the bars, buy in better players and increase their chances of winning more cash and gaining access to international competitions?
However, the effectiveness of imported players is proving questionable. In cricket jet-lag now measures the time between the arrival of a visiting international BSD and his first match winning performance.
It is also redefining what is meant by affinity. This report of the match at Cricinfo makes an unintended point: “Northants openers Loye (ex-Lancs, TM) and Lou Vincent, the club’s stand-in overseas signing, took the score to 23 after two overs of their reply. Vincent, who spent the latter half of the 2008 season at Old Trafford, has signed for the Steelbacks for 10 days until Zimbabwean Elton Chigumbura arrives.”
It was good therefore to see the young and HOME GROWN Tom Smith make a fluent and untroubled 67 off 47 balls.
The performances of home grown talent are inspiring to the three most likely ‘audiences’ making up the support on the night: youngsters who can dream of following in the footsteps of these ‘local heroes’; those going after work or as part of some hospitality package who can identify with players with a similar (in this case) Lancastrian approach to life, and older supporters who can take pride in their club fulfilling the higher purpose of producing good players for the game and its history.
So do we really need expensive international itinerants either to win matches or to draw crowds? The marketing of these matches could equally well centre upon the lives, progress and performance of local ‘lads’ like Smith and Simon Kerrigan who in the Northants innings took 3 for 17 in his four overs.
Two further observations:
1. The training bike has given way to the ladder as a means of releasing tension and keeping muscles warm.
2. The deflected sweep, the flicks over either shoulder and the switch hit are now the main ways batsmen score. These shots demand skilful and brave batting.
Pace bowlers are finding it hard to counter them, but this change in the balance of power between batsman and paceman further enhances the attractions of spin.
Debt in deflationary times is a dangerous thing. Treasurers and Chief Executives will be keeping an anxious eye on the gates. Last night’s attendance suggests that the honeymoon is over. There already needs to be a new reason to watch Twenty20. Could that also be a new meaning for affinity marketing?
For the scores on the doors click here.