Melbourne has the best sporting fans in the world, just ask them.

It's why the depressing, empty scene that confronted Australian captain Steve Smith as he chased another hundred on day one of the fourth Test at the MCG was so difficult to watch.

Melbourne fans flocked to the MCG on Boxing Day in the fourth highest Test cricket crowd ever recorded at the MCG.

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It's just a shame that such a small fraction of those 88,172 fans bothered to stick around after tea.


Smith and then Shaun Marsh dug in when the MCG deck began to slow and make things awkward for batsmen on day one as Australia scored 2/43 in the middle session on Boxing Day.

That was enough for many spectators as the MCG's upper tier emptied during the tea break.

It left a cavernous, dreary scene as the back drop to the final session of play where Smith and Marsh steered Australia to 3/244 at stumps.

It was the type of soulless atmospheric vacuum normally reserved for NRL games between two teams out of finals contention in August — and that's a shame. It was supposed to be the best atmosphere in world cricket. As far as overall fan experience goes, it was probably eclipsed by the sold out NBL crowd of 10,300 at Hisense Stadium to see Melbourne United's open-air win over Brisbane.

The empty stadium led to widespread discontentment from commentators and fans.
Peter Lalor, chief cricket writer for The Australian, said he couldn't believe that fans walked out in the middle of a Steve Smith innings.

"I was disappointed by the day," Lalor told ABC Grandstand.

"I'll take my reading from the crowd. They voted with their feet. Steve Smith was batting and half the crowd had left. It was like (AFL club) Collingwood were losing. You looked around and the stands had emptied out. You don't leave when Steve Smith is batting. But they'd sat through an afternoon session when 40 runs were scored."

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The view of the empty stadium would have been difficult for Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland to swallow.

The man that has tried so hard to try and make cricket more accessible to a wider demographic of spectators, admitted on Wednesday that the "dour play" did not help the overall spectacle.

"It was a dour days play," Sutherland told ABC Grandstand.

"Australia got off to a pretty good start and then England were able to contain the Australian players through that middle session. Perhaps that was due to the conditions, but also some good bowling on England players' part. Test cricket is like that sometimes. Players need to work through those difficult times. It's too early to judge in this test match."

He admitted providing pitches that promote entertaining cricket to be one of the biggest issues the game is still trying to confront.

"Pitches are incredible important for the future of test cricket," he said.

"We need to provide an entertaining contest. We need to provide a contest between bat and ball."

- news.com.au, AAP