THE ASHES will have the hottest ticket in town this summer, but overwhelming popularity can cause pain. One club is so disillusioned with the ECB's high pricing and restricted ticket availability that they have arranged their own Australian 'ashes' weekend at their own ground in Bedfordshire.
Elstow CC have been sending a large party from the village to the Friday of Test matches at Edgbaston every season since the early 1990s, whoever the opposition, and they shared harder times with England. But this year they were knocked back by a sharp rise in ticket price to £75 and a maximum of two tickets per application.
Committee member Phil Johnson said: "This year Warwickshire CCC informed us that despite our longstanding loyalty to Edgbaston and England, we would not be entitled to a group booking. Unsurprisingly the boys were gutted. Our bus driver Dave nearly broke down when he was informed that the annual trip to our cricketing mecca was off."
Elstow's letter of complaint did not even get a reply. "The response to this setback was unanimous," Johnson said. "Just when all seemed lost, one olí boy had an epiphany. If Elstow could not go to the Ashes, the Ashes would come to Elstow."
The villagers have arranged a two-day 'Test' against an Australian Invitation XI at their own ground on July 25 and 26 for the benefit of a cancer charity and club funds. They have even advertised a weekend package as a parody of the real thing. For £45, you can have hotel accomodation, breakfast, entrance to the event and an Elstow Ashes T-shirt.
Johnson said that the club would never again send a party to a Test at Birmingham. "It is a real shame about Edgbaston's actions. We all realise that there would be a lot of interest from this summer's Ashes, but considering we have been loyal to them for the best part of 20 years it really shows how little they care about the people. I am absolutely positive this type of action, plus raising the ticket prices 50 per cent, the ECB will effectively shoot themselves in the foot in terms of future ticket sales and the immense atmosphere Edgbaston usually generates."
Now the search has started for some opposition at Elstow for the big weekend. "We need Australians to play, support, eat, drink, have fun and give a bit of banter," says the invitation. Food and drink will be flowing throughout the two-day match, with a live band, entertainment and an auction on the Saturday night. The club, located just south of Bedford on the A6 road, hopes to attract large support and publicity.
"Our aim is simple," said Johnson. "It's to provide a rollicking one-off weekend that celebrates the unique sporting rivalry that is The Ashes and all it entails." Elstow even hope to win the game...