Halfpenny: Why Case For 2013 Ashes Test
At Trent Bridge Is Now So Compelling

Comment and Analysis | 3rd August 2011

There has been more than one Test going on at Trent Bridge over the course of the last week.

While the players of England and India have been fighting it out on the field for the right to be recognised as the number one side in the world, those who run the historic West Bridgford venue have been the subject of an exacting examination of their own.

On September 22, the ECB are due to decide the allocation of major matches for the period 2013-2016, which includes the 2013 and 2015 Ashes series.

And as soon as Friday, Notts, who missed out on the biggest series in the game in 2009, will make a presentation to seven-strong, independent Major Match Group, headed by Lord Morris of Handsworth, who will recommend which grounds are best suited for that purpose – with a 2013 Ashes Test the club's prime target.

Understandably, it was not lost on chief executive Derek Brewer and his deputy Lisa Pursehouse, the importance of hosting such a huge fixture as England-India in the lead up to that critical process.

The top class international over the weekend was effectively a dress rehearsal for what could be in store in 2013 when the Aussies return to these shores; it was a true test of their administrative capabilities.

And there can be absolutely no doubt that Trent Bridge came up trumps. They could hardly have done more to impress.

The ECB would have been scrutinising every last detail of events which culminated in England's crushing 319-run win over the tourists to potentially pick holes in the way the county club went about things.

Yet the truth was they would have been hard pressed to find anything to grumble about.

The match itself was a riveting encounter from first to last with never a dull moment.

India won the toss and made good use of that advantage to have England reeling at 124-8.

But then came the Three Lions fightback – led by local favourites Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann.

Still, the visitors seemed to be in the box seat when they reached 267-4 in reply to the hosts' 221 before Broad's heroic hat-trick, on the way to figures of 6-46, changed the momentum.

That saw the visitors lose their last six wickets for 21 runs and meant England's first innings deficit was just 67.

The moments to remember kept on coming on day three as Andrew Strauss' side piled up 417 runs in three sessions, including a brilliant 159 from Ian Bell, aided by some admirable sportsmanship by Indian skipper MS Dhoni.

Bell thougth the final ball before tea had been struck for four by Eoin Morgan and left his crease before the interval had been called by the umpires.

India successfully appealed for a run out, but after boos from the crowd and protestations from England, Dhoni decided to withdraw his appeal and Bell was allowed to continue his innings.

In the final session of Saturday, England notched an incredible 185 as Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan made hay with some superb strokemaking.

Specatators also got their money's worth and more on the fourth and final day as England scored 97 runs in the first hour and eventually set India a victory target of 478 after being bowled out for 544.

And as the hosts bowled intelligently and with great discipline, they ripped through the tourists' batting, bowling them out for 158, with Bresnan taking 5-48.

The lone resistance came from the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, who exhilarated with some sumptuous drives in his 86-ball 56 on what is set to be his last Test innings on the ground.

One of the major reasons for such memorable cricket was the preparation of a wicket and outfield for which head groundsman Steve Birks and his team deserve enormous credit.

The Trent Bridge pitch has been criticised in the past for being too bowler friendly; a little too slow and low in bounce.

But this strip had excellent pace and carry and offered a true contest between bat and ball.

As should be the case with a new ball, there was seam and swing movement, but if the batsmen could get through that tricky period, they got good value for their shots.

That was helped by an outfield over which the ball rolled and rolled, a surface that has improved markedly since the club laid a new drainage system.

The match was played out against a backdrop of packed houses, which illustrates the thirst for Test cricket in the East Midlands region.

Days one to three were sold out well in advance, while only a handful of seats were left unoccupied on day four.

Had India's resistance lasted into the final day, it is likely cut prices and free tickets for those who booked in advance for day four would have seen another healthy attendance too.

Those who did take their seats – around 65,000 did – enjoyed some of the best facilities in the country and the best vantage points.

Few viewing areas can rival the top deck of the Radcliffe Road Stand, while there is no better scoreboard and replay screen in the country than the one erected adjacent to the pavilion.

And you would be hard pushed to find anyone disagree that the ground is one of the friendliest and accommodating on the English Test match circuit.

Fans certainly enjoyed the atmosphere – both English and Indian alike – with good-natured banter between them, not to mention the Mexican waves and fancy dress costumes.

Looking after the media is also considered essential by the ECB and their every wish was catered for, from speedy wi-fi access to scoreboard and stats hand-outs.

Indeed, chief executive Derek Brewer felt it was the smoothest a Test had run under his jurisdiction and other respected figures, broadcasters Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Nasser Hussain among them, were suitably impressed.

That, it should be pointed out, is in contrast to some of its rivals. Cardiff was recently stripped of next summer's West Indies Test, with Lord's stepping in.

That was after cash-strapped Glamorgan failed to pay back £2.5m to the England and Wales Cricket Board following the weather-affected Sri Lanka match in May.

Elsewhere, the Rose Bowl, Southampton saw lower-than-expected crowds, even despite poor weather, for its inaugural Test match.

A disappointing figure of around 36,000 attended over the course of the five days, with only 7,500 for the landmark opening day.

And Edgbaston suffered a setback earlier this season when Warwickshire were docked eight points for the preparation of a poor pitch for the County Championship match with Worcestershire.

Of course, all that matters in the grand scheme of things is what the Major Match Group and, ultimately, those in power at the ECB think. Everything else is irrelevant.

But the overwhelming success of the England-India Test demonstrates Trent Bridge could hardly have a more compelling case.

Matt Halfpenny is the Midlands Sports Journalist Of The Year and covers cricket for The Nottingham Post

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