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Surrey’s friendly against Middlesex sees the Oval host the first event with spectators since March

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The Oval was set up with social distancing guidelines and regulations as it hosted the first test event with spectators since March on Sunday.

Alternate rows were used and advisory signs were on show for a friendly match between Surrey and Middlesex, with a limited number of members in assigned seats in a mostly empty stadium.

Surrey and Middlesex will use the match as practice before the season starts on August 1 but the sporting world will be focused on the success of the event in terms of the spectators.

The Oval hosted the first test event with spectators since March in a two-day friendly

The Oval hosted the first test event with spectators since March in a two-day friendly

Surrey were hosting Middlesex as alternate rows were used and advisory signs were on show

Surrey were hosting Middlesex as alternate rows were used and advisory signs were on show

Surrey chief executive Richard Gould said the club received 10,000 calls for the 1,000 places available within an hour of the tickets being made available to members.

The 1,000 fans were seated across two stands, with alternate rows free and with a two-seat gap between family groups of a maximum of six.

Gould hailed the test event a ‘definite success’ and expressed his hope that the circumstances can be replicated.

‘I think it’s really important (for county cricket) because we haven’t had crowds back in our grounds since September 2019 and perhaps this will be a pilot that will allow more supporters to return in the coming weeks,’ he told the PA news agency.

The Oval was set up with social distancing guidelines and regulations as it hosted the event

The Oval was set up with social distancing guidelines and regulations as it hosted the event

‘Our season finishes in eight or nine weeks time so it’s a short season and it’s important that we don’t go a year-and-a-half without having supporters in the ground.’

On the event, the chief executive said: ‘A definite success. We’ll measure it on a number of different levels, firstly was the demand for tickets.

‘We went to our members last week and we got literally thousands of calls, people wanting to return for what is a friendly match, normally we’d have much smaller crowds than this so to get a thousand people desperate to come and more is definitely great news and so far the day’s going well.’

Gould is hopeful the experiment can be repeated soon.

He said: ‘The sun is shining, cricket is taking place and people look happy. I hope it’s not going to be a one-off, I think it depends on how well it goes.

There were a limited number of members in assigned seats in a mostly empty stadium

There were a limited number of members in assigned seats in a mostly empty stadium

‘We’ve got lots of people here from government and safety authorities and I think they’ll have a look at it and make a judgement and hopefully it can accelerate things if this goes well.’ 

The two-day friendly is one of the government’s pilot schemes for the return of sport. Both London counties will meet on Saturday at the same ground in the first round of the new four-day competition The Bob Willis Trophy.

They have not met in first-class cricket for two seasons following Middlesex’s relegation to Division Two three years ago. But the trophy’s regional structure will see both sides compete in the six-strong South Group.

Middlesex will play their two home games at Radlett, with Lord’s unavailable. Surrey have three home games, against Middlesex, Kent and Sussex.  

The two counties will meet on Saturday in the first round of the new four-day competition

The two counties will meet on Saturday in the first round of the new four-day competition 

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