QUEENSLAND Cricket is hopeful of attracting its biggest attendance outside of an Ashes summer when it hosts its first Test between Australia and South Africa in almost 50 years.
QC is budgeting for an overall crowd of about 80,000 for the opening clash in the series, which begins on November 9.
The 2006-07 Ashes opener drew almost 165,000 supporters, while more than 132,000 attended the corresponding Test four years later.
But fixturing restraints have often meant QC has been lumbered with matches featuring the lesser of the two visiting nations, with the likes of South Africa and India generally touring over the Christmas period, with those Tests going to Melbourne and Sydney.
But Cricket South Africa's insistence it no longer tours Australia over the peak holiday period because Cricket Australia does not reciprocate, means QC has been handed a match it can surely promote and profit from.
A QC spokesman said yesterday the Test against South Africa would give it ''a fairly big uplift''.
It's believed about 15,000 seats for day one at the Gabba have already been sold. But QC is concerned that a decision by CA to delay the release of tickets means fans who travel long distances and need to plan ahead may be less likely to attend.
The Test will also begin on a Friday, rather than a Thursday, which means there is one less day to attract a corporate crowd, and falls during Melbourne Cup week, which may hinder promotion.
As CA works through several major issues, including a new television rights deal and plans for the 2015 World Cup, it has had to become more strategic in all areas - the latest a revamped ticketing system.
Tickets for international fixtures have traditionally gone on sale mid-year, but CA this year opted to wait until recently to make them available through its Australian Cricket Family and later to the public.
This once again underlines the increasing hold the AFL and NRL have on the sports market through the winter months.
''Ticket sales sell best when they are promoted in between the end of the NRL and AFL seasons and the start of the racing carnival season,'' a CA spokesman said yesterday.
''There was a conscious effort to promote first with the Australian Cricket Family, which is six weeks before the Test, and then to the general public a month before the Test in that critical period when people have finished their football seasons and they haven't thought about their racing carnival seasons.
''So far the figures suggest that decision has been justified.''
The last Gabba Test between Australia and South Africa, in 1963-64, was when Australian fast bowler Ian Meckiff was called for throwing.