It is not long ago that “Cricket Australia”, formerly the Australian Cricket Board, was rightly concerned at the decline in spectator interest – and even television viewer interest – in Test cricket.

Even the famed Melbourne Boxing Day Test Match attracted less than capacity crowds, and Perth was in danger of losing its Test match status because of poor attendances.

But it took defeat to turn that around completely. The Ashes loss in England last year was the “win” Cricket Australia needed.

While Australians love our national teams to win, we want them to do so in a genuine contest. And until the Ashes series, Australia had been winning too often, and too easily.

It happened in rugby league as well. The Kangaroos Tri-Nations loss to the Kiwis a year ago revitalised interest in the Kangaroos. Tomorrow night, more than 40,000 will be at Suncorp Stadium to watch the Kangaroos v British Lions game.

The first four days of next week’s Ashes test at the Gabba are a sellout. That is unprecedented, made even more impressive by the fact the capacity of the Gabba has doubled in recent years.

It is the same story right around the country – the first four days of each Test are virtually sold out, even in Perth.

There is one worry for Cricket Australia. The post-Ashes victory form of the English has been very, very ordinary. While England ranks second behind Australia in the ICC international Test ratings, it ranks eighth in the one day rankings – only Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya rate lower.

On individual player ratings, there are three Australians in the top ten batsmen, and not one Englishman. Thankfully, they fare better in the bowling ratings!

I watched the Prime Minister’s XI v England match on Fox Sports a week ago, and the English were terrible. They improved against New South Wales, but they’d need to!

A one-sided series (provided it is one-sided Australia’s way) will have “retribution” attraction. But cricket is one sport not suited to a lopsided contest – given that it is a five-Test series, played over 25 days, and a spread of more than six weeks.

Cricket Australia will be hoping the sports betting assessors are wrong. Today, the shortest price for an Australian win is $4.50 for a 5-0 wipe out. The shortest price for an England series win is $31 for a 2-1 victory!

Peter Fray

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