Test: Newlands nears full house

Newlands (Gallo Images)
Newlands (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Around 80 percent of available tickets for the first three days’ play in the opening Test between South Africa and India at Newlands have been snapped up.

That was the revelation to Sport24 on Wednesday from Nabeal Dien, chief executive of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA), ahead of the keenly-awaited clash featuring the top two current sides on the global rankings.

“Day one (Friday) is especially close to capacity, with only scatterings of seats still left ... you will struggle to get four together, for instance,” said Dien.

Capacity at the famous ground is considered to be somewhere between 19 000 and 20 000, and full houses now appear rosy prospects for all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday - a development suggesting that the city’s appetite for the Test format remains undimmed.

Dien said they were not in control of around 3 000 tickets that are the preserve of the Western Province Cricket Club (WPCC), although their seats in the pavilion area are also set to be generously occupied.

“Selling (corporate) suites has become a problem in all parts of the country, and there are 10 to 12 unsold ones at Newlands at this stage; we are hoping to possibly be able to offer those for the Test at a premium rate, especially if public seating (is scarce).”

Two days out from the Test, booking remains fairly slow for days four and five, although Dien is optimistic of a gradual pick-up: “Capetonians love to buy at the last minute; for many being back at work on Monday and Tuesday will be an issue, of course, and people may also be waiting to judge the state of the game by then.”

Considering the controversy around the Indians’ late arrival for the series, which prevented the more customary New Year Test start on January 2 or 3, Dien said the first three days effectively being “weekend” ones had been something of a saving grace.

“Look, the ideal would have been a Thursday start instead. Then again, if we had started any later than we now do, you would have struggled to brand it a true ‘New Year Test’.”

Whether this fixture comes close to matching the record crowd (85 235) that attended the SA v England Test over New Year two seasons ago remains to be seen; that had “house full” signs for each of days one and two, and others that were close.

Dien said the ground was looking “wonderful” - unexpected rain earlier this week helped the outfield - and that the WPCA were doing everything in their power to ensure drought-related water responsibility at Newlands in the period leading up to and then during the Test.

“This goes right down to acquiring water from the (nearby) Newlands spring for use at training sessions and so on.

“We also urge spectators to be vigilant over water during the game; don’t leave taps unnecessarily open in the toilets.

“There will be notices around, and we have even arranged for a few students to be ‘water police’ ensuring no excessive wastage of the resource.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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