THE biggest marketing campaign in Hampshire Cricket history has ensured a near-capacity crowd will watch the first day of the third Test between England and India.

But ticket sales have been poor for the rest of the The Ageas Bowl’s second Test, due to a combination of poor scheduling and England’s poor form.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has agreed to cover any losses over the first three days, having provided marketing support when the Ageas Bowl was allocated the third Test of a five-Test series that lasts less than six weeks.

It is also the first Test to begin in England on a Sunday and is taking place at the beginning of the school holidays – when many families are away.

If that has not made selling tickets hard enough, England practise at The Ageas Bowl today on the back of a 95-run humbling at Lord’s with Alastair Cook under considerable pressure as captain of his country’s worst team for 15 years.

Given all that, Hampshire have done very well to sell around 15,000 tickets, out of a capacity of approximately 17,000, for the opening day.

Hampshire are hopeful more than 10,000 will be in attendance on day two, while around 7,000 have been sold for day three.

Commercial director Stuart Robertson said: “When the schedule was announced the ECB recognised it wasn’t going to be that easy so we’ve worked together to make the best of it and we’re really pleased with the support they’ve given us.

“The scheduling has had an impact on sales but it’s a challenge we’ve taken on with the biggest marketing project we’ve ever done.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can.

“The lion’s share of our ticket sales have been within our usual catchment area – from mid-Dorset to Swindon, back down to Andover, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight – but we’ve reached out to Slough and Harrow, big Asian populations up the M3 corridor.

“We’ve done every form of advertising except on television.

“I’m very happy with the campaign we put together.”

Despite the disappointing sales, the Ageas Bowl is assured bigger crowds than it had for its inaugural Test against Sri Lanka three years ago, when only 6,439 turned up for the rain-affected first day.

“If we can grow our Test audience every time we have one that’s a great strategy to work towards,” added Robertson.

Assuming all goes well, it is hoped Hampshire’s third Test will be of the Ashes variety, with the bidding process for the 2019 series due to begin in the next six months.