Almanac Cricket: Making sense of a second SCG Test

Sydney really wants a day-night Test. Well, not the whole city; I imagine most Sydneysiders don’t care too much. But the New South Welshpeople that make up the SCG Trust and Cricket NSW certainly do. Following the 2016 SCG non-Test, the SCG Trust proposed to Cricket Australia that it host a day-night Test this summer.

SCG Trust Chairman, Tony Shepherd, said at the time “Cricket works in Sydney, it works at the Sydney Cricket Ground because we are connected to the CBD and in the heart of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia.”

No worries you might think. If Sydney wanted to run the New Year’s Test as day-night that should be up to them, really. Oh, but the SCG Trust did not want to run their Test as day-night, they wanted to take Bellerive’s Test instead. Two Tests for the SCG. Well, it didn’t happen; Bellerive hosted the debaculous second Test against South Africa and it appeared Hobart had more to worry from Canberra than Sydney in the future.

All that would have been fine; ludicrous but fine. Unfortunately the head of Cricket NSW, Andrew Jones, said during this year’s SCG Test that it “makes sense” that Sydney should be awarded a second Test in six Test summers. Apparently the argument runs Sydney has 25% of Australia’s population, therefore deserves 25% of its top level cricket.

Ok, then. In a way Shepherd and Jones are to be thanked – for comic value alone! But also because they have given us arguments we can test for what it’s worth in this post-truth world. So let’s do that.


Cricket works in Sydney

The SCG is connected to the CBD and in the heart of Australia’s most densely populated suburbs. Both reasonable claims so require no further examination. However, does cricket actually work in Sydney? Australia’s largest city with such ready access to punters – you’d expect the largest crowds in the country, right? Well, apparently not.

Here’s the average daily crowd for major cricket events (international and BBL) at each Test venue thus far this summer (up to and including Hobart Hurricanes v Sydney Thunder, 8 January 2017).


Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 11.06.54 PM


So, despite how “cricket works in Sydney” it currently has only the third highest average daily crowd this summer, more than 12,000 a day behind Adelaide Oval. There is every chance the SCG will fall below the Gabba by the end of the summer too as the Heat take all before them. And what about next year when the Perth has a 60,000 capacity stadium? It leaves you to wonder what would it look like if cricket didn’t work in Australia’s largest city? Yeah, nah Sydney.


Sydney has 25% of Australia’s population, therefore deserves 25% of its top level cricket

First off, Sydney doesn’t have 25% of Australia’s population. As at June 2015 Greater Sydney had an estimated population of 4.921 million, 20.7% of Australia’s 23.778 million. Closer to one fifth than a quarter.

Secondly, two Tests in a six Test summer is not 25%; it is 33%. Given in a normal six Test summer Sydney gets 16.7% of the available Test cricket, even using a population argument that is a much fairer outcome than receiving 33.3%. But seeing as you’ve opened the population door, Sydney, the only way it could be argued your population warrants more cricket is if this advantage actually put bums on seats. So, let’s have a look from a population perspective.

Here’s International and BBL cricket attendances this summer at the Test venues as a percentage of each city’s population. Where it relates to a BBL game in a city with two teams the city’s population has been halved for that game (unless a derby).


Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 11.09.14 PM


There’s really no point in having more cricket if only 0.6% of your population, one in 160 people, rock up to any given day’s cricket. Not even half filling your stadium. Particularly when 5.3% of the population of the city you are trying to steal a Test from attend their cricket (one in 19 people for those playing at home).  It could be reasonably said that cricket works in Hobart better than it does in Sydney.

Sure the comparison is silly in parts – it’s just not possible for a city as large as Sydney to get anywhere near those per capita numbers. However, there are two cities with better real and per capita attendances than Sydney (in Adelaide’s case, significantly better on both counts). Until it can get more people to its cricket the SCG Trust and Cricket NSW should be begging, not choosing.

The good news, I think, is that Cricket Australia has reportedly no interest in giving Sydney another Test. In the meantime while the Sydney movers and shakers keep pushing for a second Test, the rest of us have licence to mock freely; a positive outcome in and of itself.

Mock away – you now have some figures to back it up!



About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Citrus Bob says

    Brilliant Dave
    If I had my way I would play four tests in Melbourne and raffle the others! Seriously though NSW Cricket and CA would be better off if New South Wales played the visitors like they did in the old days (here I go again!). After all the majority of players come from that State for the Oz team. But of course they would not play the best team against the visitors just in case they got too much information.
    On reflection the only grounds that I would consider as “serious” Test grounds are Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
    Citrus Bob

  2. Gold Dave the idea of Sydney getting two test matches is dioxin while I don’t agree with any state getting 2 the only 2 grounds who have any sort of claim are the g and Bob Neil number 3

  3. Well done, Dave, on calling out the Sydney bull$*** for what it is. Their arrogance and selfishness would see other states deprived of international cricket to what end? Just so Sydney can have a pink-ball Test also! Well, if they want pink-ball cricket so badly, make their existing Test a pink-ball Test.

    Let’s not forget their Test match starts on Jan 2 or 3 every year – a perfect time for cricket-watching, one would think., whilst other venues have their dates moved around at will. The Sydney push in the Ch9 commentary box were constantly talking up the crowds last week despite the ground being empty in many areas. What a joke.

    I must say I would like to see some of your figures minus BBL.

  4. Peter Warrington says

    this is genius. actual analysis. wasted, tho – trust me, evidence has a different meaning in Sydney.

    as i spend a lot of time on cricinfo reliving the past, it has always interested me how they made allocations in those halycon 6-test summers (74-5, 75-6 etc) before my beloved Hobart got the nod.

    in terms of a Day Night test, which I think would be awesome, they should think about playing one not in summer – which would be hard due to the SCG footy traffic. but, by definition, daylight is irrelevant. and the nights are pretty dry and crisp until May and from September.

    in terms of bigger crowds, they could read Jan’s piece re the cost. what I would do would put a section of the tickets up for a shorter duration – charge by the session. 2 hours is the length of a movie, which I can see for $15 with a Dendy membership (and get the 5th one free!) I’d pay $20 to go and sit for 2 hours and watch a session, but will not and cannot (timewise) fork out $70 for a whole day.

  5. Good analysis Dave. As someone who has become thoroughly disenchanted with cricket, and “test” cricket in particular – it set me thinking about what motivates people to spend a day of their lives and considerable $ to attend.
    To me it seems some combination of the stadium quality; ritual and the social occasion/connection (not the sporting contest which the ICC and money interests have ensured is mostly dull or one-sided). The magnificent redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval has certainly made it a “must do” destination. The MCG ticks all the boxes. The rest are just basket cases. Only hope for tests in Perth is the new stadium, but I wonder if it will be too much of a concrete box. The outside areas and grass mounds at Adelaide Oval have retained a sense of history and a languid cricket/social occasion feel. Perth is set up for footy crowds and corporate boxes.
    Used to like the anticipation and green top of the first test at the Gabba. Day nighters (which I like for giving the bowlers a chance) seem to have affected the scheduling, so there is none of that touring team anticipation and local friendly timing.
    Ho hum. Like horse racing outside of the Carnivals, and test “crowds” in India it will soon all be put on for TV (and desperates) with tumbleweeds blowing through the stands.

  6. DBalassone says

    I don’t like the sound of any city getting two tests in a summer – but I’m not sure your ‘average crowd’ calc is valid for 2016/17. For a start, Melbourne and Sydney had almost 2 days of washouts (Melb may have had the better part of 3 days rain-affected). Also, the fact that Melb and Syd have two BBL teams means they have twice as many games with half as much of the crowd they would have had if they had one BBL team that represented the entire state, like Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, etc. I’m sure if Melb and Syd had just one BBL team each playing once a week, they would have packed houses each game.

  7. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    Interesting idea, Bob. Yes, at the end of my day the goal was not to deride the SCG as a test venue (other than in jest)- just the ambitions of the Trust and Cricket NSW who appear not to have noticed on purely an attendance basis that they have fallen well behind the other two.

    Can provide the minus BBL figures when I get to my spreadsheet at home, Smokie. From memory though the MCG drops its only BBL crowd thus far of 71000, Adelaide drops a bit but not much, Sydney drops a bit and the other three drop quite a bit.

    One of the good things about day-night Tests, Peter W, is you can buy an evening only ticket which (I think) lets you in for only the last two sessions at a reduced cost. Almost certainly one of the reasons Adelaide and Brisbane attendances have grown.

    Will be interesting to see the Ashes Test at the new stadium, PB. Eagerly await your impressions and hoping they find a way to make it a unique and satisfying cricket experience.

    Rain certainly an issue Damien but only affects the amount of the difference, not its existence (without rain the MCG would almost certainly be above Adelaide Oval but the MCG and AO are not in competition in this analysis). Also Adelaide not having a Day 5 likely improved its numbers in comparison to other venues. However, it is worthwhile noting rain is a part of the Sydney summer experience (49 out of the last 130 summer days compared to Adelaide’s 29) so is another argument not to have more Test cricket there. The population figures account for two team towns by halving Melbourne and Sydney’s populations for BBL games (when not a derby). Although it is worthwhile noting the only BBL game at the G this season thus far has been the Melbourne derby.

    Cheers all

  8. Peter Warrington says

    what would be really interesting, drawing in some of these threads, would be if Sydney – not the SCG – asked for its own test, in Western Sydney, with its 2M population. A day nighter there would be fully sick.

    (The “Cricket works in Sydney, it works at the Sydney Cricket Ground because we are connected to the CBD and in the heart of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia” really sticks in my geographer’s craw.” That sense of being Sydney’s ground but belonging to the East really sux. Go the Thunder! Go the Giants!)

  9. Mick Jeffrey says

    Any extra test or even international match looks like being taken to smaller outposts. If Sydney was really deserving of extra international cricket why then haven’t they jumped up and down about Geelong getting a meaningless 20 over international next month? Certainly the next 3 centres that will be considered for a test will be Canberra, Cairns and Darwin (winter series are back on the agenda), with Gold Coast and even Ballarat and Launceston in the frame. It seems the smaller boutique venues are the way to go to help tests flourish outside of what are now the event tests. India and NZ have lead the way in this regard and even South Africa moved their Boxing Day test from Durban to Port Elizabeth.

  10. Yeah, I’m not sure Mick. The SCG push is so outlandish I do wonder if it is an ambit claim around some of these other international matches to ensure they continue to get what now amounts to more than their fair share. It seems clear Cricket Australia has the (laudable) desire to spread the game around more venues and perhaps it represents the greatest threat to the SCG. The Canberra cricket community should be supported but it would be a great shame if it came at the expense of Bellerive

Leave a Comment