IT won’t only be Alastair Cook under the spotlight when the England v India Test series moves onto the outskirts of Southampton this weekend.
The England skipper will enter the third Test with his side 1-0 down and his form and captaincy coming under increasing fire.
Former England skippers Michael Vaughan and Mike Atherton are just two high profile men who believe Cook should either resign or be sacked.
Though the media spotlight will be firmly shone on Cook, of more interest to Hampshire officials in general – and chairman Rod Bransgrove in particular – will be how The Ageas Bowl performs.
Bransgrove’s Holy Grail, virtually ever since the stadium was built in time for the start of the 2001 English domestic season, is to see an Ashes Test match in West End.
The awarding of an England v Australia Test remains the pinnacle for international cricket games in this country.
Hampshire have three times bid before, and Bransgrove has always been left frustrated.
The county first bid for an Ashes Test in 2009, and their disappointment was compounded by the fact that Glamorgan’s Swalec Stadium in Cardiff was chosen to host the first Test.
Bransgrove believed that decision was politically influenced, saying ‘The ‘W’ in ECB is silent but powerful’.
That was a reference to the fact that the ECB’s full title is actually The England and Wales Cricket Board.
Not only was Cardiff chosen to host an Ashes Test in 2009, it has also been awarded one in 2015.
Hampshire put in a bid to host an Ashes Test in 2013 or 2015, but in September 2011 received the bad news they had missed out again.
“I am deeply shocked,” Bransgrove said at the time.
After 2015, Australia will next tour England for an Ashes series in 2019 and Bransgrove has already admitted Hampshire will bid.
Though he cannot have done much more so far to put the stadium on the international map, a successful staging of The Ageas Bowl’s second ever Test match in the next few days will certainly heelp.
There has been much comment this summer on the batsman-friendly nature of the Test wickets.
Seamer James Anderson voiced his frustrations after the first Test against India at Trent Bridge had been played out on a similar wicket to the two proceeding Tests against Sri Lanka.
With England needing to take 20 wickets now to square the series, Anderson and co will be hoping The Ageas Bowl’s wicket provides a fairer batsman v bowler contest.
If it does, that will be a plus point in Bransgrove’s bid to bring an Ashes Test to south Hampshire.
England v Australia over potentially five days of Test cricket will forever be a cash cow.
Hampshire’s first Test, a rain-wrecked game against Sri Lanka three years ago, was anything but that.
You have to start somewhere, though (unless you’re Glamorgan, in which case you start with an Ashes Test ...) India are a better box office attraction than Sri Lanka, granted, but even the tourists are now shorn of many of their better known stars such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly.
Hampshire have not been helped by the fact their Test is due to start on a Sunday, the first such time that has ever happened in England.
It robs them of the income from traditionally busy Test match watching days of Friday and Saturday.
Bransgrove has said that while tickets for the first day have gone well, there are still some available for others.
Still, beggars cannot be choosers.
Hampshire will again do their best to ensure everything runs smoothly for their second Test, with regards to travel arrangements, parking, getting spectators in and out quickly etc.
These are huge days coming for captain Cook and a new-look England national team.
But they are also massive for Bransgrove, the man behind the Ageas Bowl’s birth and subsequent growth into a sporting arena fit for 21st century international cricket.
If he wants an Ashes Test, it’s not just Alastair Cook that needs to deliver.