Lancashire v Yorkshire - After 612 days without fans, crowds return for Roses encounter at Old Trafford

MARTYN MOXON is relishing the prospect of crowds returning as Yorkshire’s cricketers get ready to play in front of spectators for the first time in 612 days.

Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Around 4,000 fans will be allowed into Old Trafford for each day of the County Championship game against Lancashire that starts this morning – 25 per cent of the ground’s capacity as per the government’s Covid regulations.

Although Lancashire fans were given home priority access, it is understood that a small number of Yorkshire supporters have obtained tickets, giving them the chance to see their team live for the first time since September 23 2019.

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That was the opening day of the final Championship game of that season, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, the last three days of which were washed out after Yorkshire reached 261-2 in the only play possible.

Yorkshire's George Hill set to feature against Lancashire at Old Trafford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Director of cricket Moxon told The Yorkshire Post: “It will be great to see crowds back after all this time.

“I understand that there will be a few there from Yorkshire this week, although I don’t know how many exactly are travelling over.

“Both from an atmosphere point of view and also from a financial point of view, it goes without saying that we need the crowds back, and we need the income from what the crowds bring – hospitality, all that kind of stuff.

“It’s something that I think everyone’s really looking forward to, and it’s obviously great for all the loyal Yorkshire members and supporters.”

When Yorkshire fans themselves receive home ticket priority for the game against Sussex at Emerald Headingley that begins next Thursday, when around 4,250 spectators can attend on each day, it will be the first time that fans would have been permitted to attend Championship cricket in Leeds for 623 days.

That dates back to September 19, 2019, when Kent completed a 433-run win to inflict on the hosts the heaviest defeat in their history by a runs margin.

The least said about that match the better, perhaps, and with fans having had to rely on such as live streaming services to watch the action since, this might be one of the few occasions in the game’s history when results are genuinely not the most important thing –simply the act of being there.

Yorkshire are working towards the hope of full crowds from June 21, the final stage of the government’s so-called “roadmap”, with a sense of normality slowly beginning to return.

“It’s been shown with the streaming that the popularity and interest is there, both for cricket and sport in general,” added Moxon.

“People are desperate to get back into grounds because they’ve been starved of it for so long, and the demand for tickets is great to see.

“It also makes a tremendous difference to the players, because crowds provide the atmosphere that you clearly don’t get otherwise.

“It can be a pretty dead situation when there is literally no noise, and playing in front of people does inspire you as a player, there’s no doubt about that.”

As Yorkshire look to climb above a Lancashire side one place and three points above them at the top of Group Three, with both teams boasting an unbeaten record of three wins and three draws, Moxon believes that cricket has coped well with the absence of crowds.

There has been no obvious diminution in terms of quality – on the contrary, the players have adapted and risen to the challenge – and cricket is clearly different to a sport like football, which has suffered more than most from the absence of fans.

“Obviously in County Championship cricket you’re not getting 70,000 like you would be at some Premier League games,” said Moxon, “or even 10,000-15,000 for that matter.

“You’re only getting 3,000 or 4,000, so football is a lot different in that regard.

“I definitely think T20 is a massive loss without crowds, but County Championship cricket is a little bit different.

“But, generally, cricketers have adapted really well – it’s not obviously affected the quality of play –and, as we said last year, the (first) lockdown showed to all cricketers just how lucky they are and also how much they missed playing during that time.

“I think everyone was just pleased to finally be able to get back out there, initially with nobody there, but now that we are getting crowds coming back I think that everyone is going to relish it that little bit more.”

Yorkshire are without the England batsman Dawid Malan due to “personal reasons” this week with George Hill, the 20-year-old all-rounder, coming into the squad.

Off-spinner Jack Shutt has been named in a 13-man party as Yorkshire look to extend a proud record of not having lost in first-class cricket at Old Trafford for 21 years; they have won four and drawn eight of their last 12 visits.

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