In Depth

England vs Pakistan: why did only 54 fans turn up?

Sparse crowd in Abu Dhabi as England toil in the heat on the first day of series against Pakistan

The future of Test cricket has been a topic of heated debate among fans for years, but those who believe that the five-day format is in rude health were dealt a blow by the sight of England taking to the field in front of just a few dozen spectators at the start of the first Test against Pakistan.

Some reports put the attendance at the start of the match at 54, a disappointing figure for a county championship match in April, nevermind the first session of an international fixture.

Others claimed that the figure had been under-reported and more fans did arrive once play had begun.

The game is taking place in Abu Dhabi as Pakistan currently play their home games in the United Arab Emirates, but even that does not explain why a game between the third and fourth best Test teams in the world attracted so few fans.

"Cook's men were greeted to a meagre applause from the tiny crowd who were seated in pockets inside the state of the art Sheikh Zayed Stadium when they took to the pitch for day one of the first of three Tests," says the Daily Telegraph. "It appears that cricket hasn't quite captured the locals hearts."

One reason could be the conditions. The region is known as a bowlers graveyard, with nothing in the pitches to aid the fast bowlers, and where even spinners can struggle in temperatures in the high 30s centigrade.

That was borne out on day one, as Pakistan batted first and after losing an early wicket made it to tea on 173 for two

A lack of Pakistan support is understandable, given the location of the match, while England's travelling Barmy Army may have been put off by the ban on alcohol in most of the stadium and a dress code that means they cannot strip off.

The contrast with England's previous Test could not be more pronounced.

In their last Test match, Alistair Cook's men lost four wickets for 83 runs in 22.4 overs, which took four hours to bowl because of rain, as they slumped to defeat by an innings and 46 runs against Australia.

That sorry spectacle attracted more than 20,000 fans to The Oval.

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