Substantial crowd trouble marred both Dambulla ODIs, as several thousand ticket-holders were either unable to take their seats, or - in some cases - even enter the ground. SLC has issued an apology, and condemned the actions of spectators who forced their way into the venue.
This is the first series in which SLC has sold its tickets through BookMyShow - a ticket distributor of Indian origin. Tickets were sold at outlets in many of the main towns in the region, as well as online. However, the perception that a move towards online ticket sales marginalised a large portion of cricket fans is what is understood to have angered some of those who swarmed the gates of the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium last week. Wednesday's ODI had even seen a large protest at the entrance, which led to severe congestion on the Colombo-Dambulla main road.
"SLC has clearly advertised the selling points of tickets, and has sold their tickets prior to the match at 18 outlets island-wide, including in Dambulla, Matale and Anuradhapura," an SLC release said. "Ninety per cent of the tickets were reported sold through the above network and only 10% via internet.
"Public who did not purchase their respective tickets prior to the match behaved in an unruly manner, causing a situation outside the main gate. As a result, even the people who purchased the tickets could not come into the ground, due to the heavy traffic congestion caused by the unruly crowd who were blocking the main road in protest. Sri Lanka Police made several requests to the protestors to move out of the road to enable the genuine ticket holders to enter the ground. More than 2000 spectators who had purchased tickets complained that they could not get into the grounds within the first two hours of the play."
The standoff between the police and the "unruly crowd" had only been resolved after the gates were opened even to those who had not bought tickets, in order to clear the road.
In the previous match, on Sunday, thousands were seen entering the ground illegally, which led to the 18,000-capacity stadium having to accommodate up to 45,000 people. The protesting crowd had pelted the police with stones on Wednesday, but there have been no reports of major injury as a result of either incident.
"SLC would like to state that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and would like to denounce the violent behaviour of the protestors who pelted stones at the police and damaged property of the stadium. As a result, Sri Lanka Police had no choice but to use minimal force to curb the situation."
The new ticketing protocols have been in place right through the tour, but Dambulla is the only venue at which substantial crowd-control issues have emerged. Dambulla also has the lowest capacity of the three limited-overs venues.