x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Revelations rain on England's parade

More damaging newspaper claims affect ticket sales at the Twenty20 international as fans vent their frustration at Pakistan team.

It was not supposed to be like this. England's last Twenty20 international was four months ago in the Caribbean, when they trounced Australia in Barbados to win their first global title. This should have been the happiest of homecomings, especially after a summer of ongoing success in both Test and one-day cricket. But, alas, a week of sordid newspaper revelations dampened the feel-good factor as comprehensively as the miserable weather in south Wales.

In the build-up to the match, the talk in the Cardiff press box had nothing whatsoever to do with the events in the middle. Every other newspaper in the building was a copy of the News of the World, and if there was a slight sense of relief that this Sunday's reports were less explosive than those from the previous week, the overriding feeling was that Pandora's Box had been sprung well and truly open. As one former England captain put it: "You can't help wondering what else they've swept under the carpet."

The impact on ticket sales had - by the admission of Alan Hamer, the Glamorgan chief executive, - been grim. "We've felt like a department store in the lead-up to Christmas, with no one coming through the doors," he said. Some 4,000 seats out of a capacity of 15,000 were still available for today's game, with even more vacancies for Tuesday's second contest. And to judge by the mood of some of the fans on show, many of them were at the ground on sufferance.

Younis, 32, had travelled down from Birmingham that morning with his two younger cousins. The three of them were decked out in Pakistan shirts and green afro-wigs, but their support for their country was qualified in the extreme. They had brought with them two banners to make their feelings clear. "We're only here because we bought our tickets two months ago," read the first. The second was more contentious, and was in fact confiscated by the head steward before the match began. "Floods killing people in Pakistan. Pakistan cricket team killing fans."

"Enough is enough," said Younis, whose tickets cost him £165 (Dh936), but was the last such outlay he would be making on this set of players. "There's no smoke without fire, so what else is going to come out? I read in the newspaper, pick the bad apples and throw them out. I say pull the tree up at the roots, and throw the tree out. Pick a new team with a new board, new management, everything new ..."

In the circumstances, a washout might well have been the most appropriate result for this match - and for much of the morning, while a heavy drizzle was camped over Sophia Gardens, that seemed the likeliest prospect. But then the clouds rolled away, and after a half-hour delay, a team of 11 RAF parachutists floated down into the ground to deliver the match ball and get the contest under way. Even more incredible was the cynicism of some of the fans in the ground. Chris, 29, had travelled down from Perth in Scotland with a group of his friends for a stag weekend, and all that mattered to him was that he got his fill of entertainment.

"This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. It doesn't bother me," he said. "As it happens, I don't think this game will be bent, because there's such a spotlight on it. But nothing has come as a surprise this week. I'm sure there's more out there, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. But I'm more worried about the rain than the betting." Was it not a concern, however, that - according to the newspaper revelations - two of the one-day games had already been lined up for Pakistan to lose?

"We've come to watch England win, so it wouldn't matter to be honest," said Paul, 29. "If you throw enough money at something, you can pretty much buy anything, so I don't think it makes much difference. I'm just here to watch the spectacle." sports@thenational.ae Andrew Miller is the UK editor of Cricinfo