Tickets unsold as Barmy Army hit in the pocket

EVEN as the first ball of the Ashes was being bowled last night travel agents admitted tickets were still readily available for the series, after experiencing slow sales.

Fluctuations in exchange rates mean this winter’s trip will hit England followers far harder in the pocket than in previous years.

Cricket Australia, the game’s governing body Down Under, last week said thousands of tickets for the five-match series were yet to be sold.

Some 37,000 fans made the long journey to Australia in 2006-07, the last time the Ashes was held there, but travel experts have predicted there will be far fewer this winter.

Specialist tour operator Gullivers Sports Travel said it was still selling packages for the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, starting at just under £1,400 per person.

Alister Strahan, Outbound Supporters Manager, said: “Demand for travel to the Ashes this year has been lower than in previous years but it is in line with what we were expecting. As we all know, the recession hit many people hard and that, coupled with the bad exchange rate, meant many fans opted to watch it on television instead.

“For those that made that decision and now regret it, or those that are pleased with England’s performances in the warm-up games, Gullivers still has packages with tickets available for the fourth and fifth Tests.”

Travel company Freedom Australia said it had sold more packages than expected but still had availability for the third, fourth and fifth Tests, starting at around £750 per person.

English fans will find that £500 buys them just A$800 this time round, compared with around A$1,230 four years ago.
Emirates vice-president for Australasia, Barry Brown, said: “I don’t think you’ll see the Barmy Army here in anywhere near the numbers of last series.”

THE ALL-ROUNDER | CONDITIONS, STATS AND BANTER

PITCH
A typical Gabba surface. The recent rain should assist the bowlers early on, even more than usual, but the pitch is likely to play true and once set, top-class batsmen should score heavily.

STAT OF THE DAY
Aussie batsmen love it in Brisbane. In the last 10 Tests there have been 21 centuries scored, 17 of them by an Australian. Ricky Ponting should be particularly pleased his vice-captain is fit – Michael Clarke averages 84.80 at the Gabba.

FIGHTING TALK
“Australia haven’t lost here since 1989. That’s quite an impressive record – and that’s why they start the series here.” Ian Botham sums up the challenge facing England in Brisbane.

“Come on Swanny and KP and the rest of ya, do your thing!” England football captain Rio Ferdinand tweets his support for our boys in Brisbane.