A blank look: A fine opening day’s game in the India-England women’s Test at Bristol played out to vast expanses of empty stands. Only a little motley bunch sat in the only peopled corner of the stadium to watch England bat well, and later for the Indian women to spin their way back in. The Test opened to a convincing confirmation of why Heather Knight is the England captain. She scored a fine 95.
Kiwis on-brand: New Zealand have marked their presence outside the Ageas Bowl cricket stadium in Southampton with a corridor of signs announcing The Ultimate Test. Of the Indian team there is no sign, or signage, at all. Clearly this is a game of sponsorship and rights, and the Kiwis took the rights to that one. Right in a way because they have marked their presence strongly at two other grounds, at Lord’s and at Edgbaston, by nearly winning one Test against England and going on to win the other. Indian fans are hoping that the Indian team will punch in their presence where it matters – inside the stadium from Friday this week.
Image maintenance: Security at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, now called the Ageas Bowl for sponsorship reasons, is extraordinarily strict. Security has been refusing even pictures and phone videos outside the stadium. Security says the grounds around are private property, which they no doubt are, and have been for a while. No one has refused pictures taken of the stadium from outside for that reason. Going by the security, Ageas Bowl just got the grading of a nuclear installation.
Locals giving Ultimate Test a miss: Southampton looks distinctly unexcited about The Ultimate Test in that town. Predictably because England are not playing, England are in fact a long way from playing given their position in relation to the two top teams after a string of Test losses. Southampton has seen little of the usual local crowding for tickets to the match when England play or even when there is an exciting ODI match on that England may not be playing. It would seem that almost all who come to watch the match will come from outside Southampton.
Delta toll soars: The daily toll of Delta cases in Britain climbed above 9,000 on Wednesday. The number of hospitalisations rose too. That number has been climbing steadily; it’s well above a thousand a day now, up significantly from just a few hundred only weeks back. That rising number could well put a dampener on attendance at the game, besides the weather predictions that still threaten rain every day of the match. But the numbers are raising questions that go far beyond this one match; at this rate of increase, many are doubting already whether the lockdown can be lifted fully even by July 19.