Australia and England may start the fourth Ashes Test in front of a world-record crowd of 91,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the teams tied at 1-1, officials said.
Australia’s 267-run win in Perth two days ago has boosted interest in the best-of-five contest and organizers expect a near-capacity attendance when the series resumes Dec. 26, said Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland.
“The cricket gods are smiling on us all,” Sutherland told reporters in Melbourne. “We’ve got a fantastic setup for the Boxing Day Test match, one-all with two matches to play.”
The record verified attendance for a Test was the 90,800 that watched Australia play West Indies at the same venue in February, 1961. Four years ago, 89,155 attended on Boxing Day when former Australia spinner Shane Warne took his 700th Test wicket with the Australians already 3-0 up in the Ashes series.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground seats 100,000 after it was upgraded for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, making it the world’s largest cricket ground. More than 300,000 may attend over five days should the match go the distance, Sutherland added.
“We’re on target to make history with the Boxing Day Test match looking like a close to capacity crowd at the MCG on day one, hopefully breaking the world record for the highest-ever attendance at a single day of Test cricket,” Sutherland said.
Australia fought back in Perth, dismissing England for 187 and 123 after the touring batsmen racked up 1,137 runs for the loss of six wickets across two innings in the first two Tests.
The victory in Perth with almost two days to spare followed an innings and 71-run defeat in Adelaide and a first-day batting collapse at the WACA Ground that had prompted one local bookmaker to pay out on England retaining the Ashes.
As Ashes holder, England would keep the trophy by tying the series. The English last successfully retained the Ashes in 1986-87, when Mike Gatting’s team secured a 2-1 win in Australia.
“When we start in Melbourne whatever happens, it’s a clean slate,” England vice-captain Alastair Cook said today in televised press conference comments. “Whoever adapts to the conditions we get in Melbourne the next few days and plays the best cricket will win.”
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