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No longer pyjama cricket: Viewership numbers dispel any myth that T20s haven't earned “real cricket” status in Australia

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23rd February, 2024

I suspect that it would be hard to find T20 cricket-related news stories or social media posts in Australia without the words, “it’s not real cricket” peppering the comment sections.

Cricket “fans” are once again resorting to this self-congratulatory and elitist derision of T20 cricket only decades after the same was said about One Day cricket – once referred to as the “pyjama” version of the game – and it demonstrates once again humanity’s inherent self-obsession.

“Back in my day…” You can fill in the blank with almost anything.

Are we allowed new Star Wars movies? No, of course not. Only the originals are “real” Star Wars. Is new music any good? Are electric vehicles okay? Should we have more drink breaks in sport? If you follow that train of thought, definitely not.

So, good luck, though, to anyone who wants to define what “real cricket” is. In most cases that term is, of course, a reference to five-day Test cricket – which, as a note, is definitely my preferred form of cricket.

So, presumably Sheffield Shield and English County cricket don’t make the cut. Or maybe it’s a reference to multi-day cricket matches with six balls an over – which means “real cricket” didn’t really begin until the late 70s. Or maybe it was the days of four-ball overs? Or five-balls?

Presumably, the answer is a little more subjective and “real cricket” must have four innings and be played over multiple days.


Disappointing, then, for all those kids learning to play cricket who never get to play “real cricket” on the weekend.

Of course, anyone willing to stop and think for a moment can recognise the absurdity of trying to impose “real” on anything – be it cricket, Star Wars or cars.

In the end, those crying for the “real” anything are only interested in that which meets and fulfils their subjective expectations and preferences – anything that fails to meet those criteria isn’t “real”.

Making the case for T20 cricket, then, is fighting the human instinct of ‘me, me, me’, and must therefore rely on objective facts rather than subjective preferences. As with Star Wars and electric vehicles, only the end demand for the product will demonstrate the value of the product.

So let’s actually look at some of the numbers that might give us a clue as to what people outside of the insular self-righteous cricket comment section bubble are thinking about T20 cricket.

I reached out to Cricket Australia, Foxtel, and Channel Seven for TV ratings and crowd size information but received no response. So I have instead had to rely on the publicly available information they have sporadically made available.


The resulting TV ratings aren’t always complete, but they do give a pretty clear picture of the overall for the past two years and hint at the growth over the past decade.

A good example is the numbers from across the Foxtel Group (including Foxtel, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go, and Kayo Sports), BBL12, which was the Big Bash League season for 2022-23, there was an average viewership of 248,000 per game – a 33% year-over-year increase on the previous BBL11.

During BBL12, the top three games drew viewership of 377,000 (Sixers v Thunder), 353,000 (Renegades v Stars), and 336,000 (Sixers v Scorchers).

Free-to-air numbers from Channel Seven aren’t as clear for the whole BBL12 season, with one report claiming “linear TV channels” generated an average of 532,000 per game during BBL12, “the highest of any Australian sports league on a per-game basis.”

For the BBL12 final which saw the Perth Scorchers beat Brisbane Heat, Channel Seven viewership hit 502,000 while total viewership across Seven, Foxtel, and streaming services including Kayo reached an average of around 1.3 million – a 30% increase on the 2021-22 final between Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers.

The Perth Scorchers celebrate.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

In terms of actual attendance at the games during BBL12, total attendance across the 61 games reached around 1 million – including 53,886 fans who watched the final at Optus Stadium.


Things started just as strong in 2023-24 for BBL13, with 1.9 million tuning into Seven and 7Plus alone for the opening game between Brisbane Heat and Melbourne Stars.

By January 10, 8.2 million people had watched the BBL on Seven/7Plus over around 30 matches, while Kayo’s viewership over the first 37 matches had increased 16% year-over-year, making it the most streamed BBL ever on the platform.

A highlight for the season was Aaron Finch’s farewell match against the Melbourne Stars, which was exclusive to Fox and hit 170,000 Kayo streams – the largest streaming audience of all time for a regular season game.

By the season’s end, 9.4 million people had tuned in to Seven/7Plus to watch BBL13 with a national season average viewership of 492,000, while Foxtel and Kayo’s average audience for Big Bash games was 235,000.

Attendance for BBL13 matched that seen in BBL12 – somewhat impressive, considering the number of games played dropped by 20. Similarly, the final between Brisbane Heat and Sydney Sixers drew a crowd of 43,153, the biggest ever in Sydney in the history of the competition.

According to Cricket Australia, average crowds attending BBL13 matches increased by 27% to an average of 20,184, with six sold-out matches and crowds of over 40,000 in another five matches for the first time since 2017-18 (BBL06).

Just as important was news that a record-breaking 95,124 fans attended matches throughout WBBL09, making this the highest-attended season since the competition went standalone in 2019.


As far as my research could show, there is no official data for the T20 matches played between Australia and the West Indies, except for attendance data from AusStadiums, which reported 19,891 people attended the second T20I at Adelaide Oval, and only 17,018 attended the third at Optus Stadium.

Data was similarly lacking for Foxtel’s viewership for the Test matches over the latest Summer, with only a single report claiming Foxtel said its average audience across Foxtel and Kayo for Test cricket was 306,000 while its average audience for Big Bash games was 235,000.

Channel Seven was a little more forthcoming with their viewership numbers for the Test Summer, with the third Test coverage reaching 4.9 million people nationally with a daily average peak audience of 1.1 million.

The first Test between Australia and the West Indies was not as impressive, reaching a total of 3.8 million people with a daily peak audience of 879,000, while the second Test did much better, reaching 6.7 million people nationally over the whole Test and an average TV audience of 875,000 across the four days.

It is no real surprise that Test cricket over Australia’s Summer drew bigger overall TV audiences – much bigger, considering we only have Channel Seven viewership numbers, and nothing really from Foxtel: It’s an international sport condensed into only a few days – as compared to a domestic competition run over two months.

In that regard, it’s a little of an apples-and-oranges comparison – one would have hoped that Test matches would beat BBL viewership.


But as a case for demonstrating the possibility that not everyone dismisses T20 cricket as not being “real cricket”, the fact that the Big Bash generates regular viewership and attendance in the tens of thousands across a two-month period says quite a lot about how many Australians view T20 cricket.

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As one final capper on this data-driven experiment, 19,603 New Zealanders turned up to Sky Stadium in Wellington on a Wednesday night to watch Australia successfully chase down 216 off the final ball, packing the stadium to over half of its capacity on a work and school night.

So maybe, the next time you feel the urge to deride T20 cricket as not being “real cricket”, take a few moments, breathe, and remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you.