It’s hard to judge just how much people like the Boxing Day Test.
In South Africa, we like the idea of a “Boxing Day Test” – we watch on TV and we tweet about it online.
We just don’t like going to the stadium hosting the match after Boxing Day.
The trouble for Durban and Port Elizabeth, who have hosted the Boxing Day Tests following isolation, is that crowds for the first day – Boxing Day – are usually very good and tickets are often sold out.
It’s what happens on days two, three and four that has caused Cricket SA concern over the years.
From “house full” signs on December 26, the days thereafter are often very poorly attended.
When England toured here three seasons ago, it felt like a home game for the visitors as their fans – who always travel well anyway – outnumbered locals at Kingsmead.
Perhaps the most embarrassing moment for CSA was Jacques Kallis’ last Test, when barely 4 000 people came through the gates on each of the last three days at Kingsmead as South Africa fought tooth and nail against India.
Thereafter they’ve tried to take the Boxing Day Test to PE, but similar problems arose.
So this summer, SuperSport Park in Centurion has been given the opportunity, and just like in Durban and PE, the first day crowd was excellent.
Midway through the morning session, just over 500 tickets were still up for sale for day one. Those were all snapped up by lunch.
However, the big test for CSA as to whether bringing this match to Gauteng and turning it into a marquee event like the Newlands New Year’s Test will be how many pitch up for days two, three, four and five (if the match goes that far).
For too long, it’s been wrongly believed that Gauteng empties out over the festive season. Sure, lots of people head for the coast, but you only need to try and find parking at a shopping mall in the days leading up to Christmas to realise lots of people don’t head for the beach.
This year, of course, there’s the added economic factor – people are wary of how much they spend and what they spend it on.
Why spend so much money on fuel for a 570km trip to Durban, along with all the other expenses, when you can stay right here and have a big cricket match on your doorstep?
SuperSport Park is also arguably the most fan-friendly stadium in the country; easily accessible via the Gautrain or by car from the M1, while there is also lots of parking available.
The grass embankment makes it an attractive ground for viewing, and there is also enough room behind the embankment and stands for a braai and the little ones to play.
This year, because of the Mzansi Super League, a lot of CSA’s attention was elsewhere from a marketing perspective.
However, the Test between South Africa and Pakistan, which started on Wednesday, does have a certain novelty factor, being the first to take place in the region at this time of year.
Certainly the Northerns Cricket Union, which in recent years has shown itself to be the most well administered province in the country, deserves a shot at hosting the next Boxing Day Test, which will be against England next summer.
What a day! So many wickets and so much excitement. South Africa need 149 runs to win tomorrow. We can't wait to see who steps up for the #ProteaFire.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) December 27, 2018
Catch tomorrow's play at 10:00 live on SuperSport 2, SABC 3 & Radio 2000. #SAvPAK pic.twitter.com/FB5QIEb6yH
Cricket SA is right in wanting to make this Test a marquee event like the New Year’s one and the “Pink ODI”.
It will take patience, marketing nous and buy-in from the public.
With regards the latter, we know that there are enough of them in Gauteng at this time of year.@shockerhess