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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Ashes finale draws 7.4m viewers
Winning England team
Millions watched England's victory ceremony
Channel 4 has recorded its highest ever audience share as England's cricket team regained the Ashes from Australia.

A total of 7.4m viewers tuned in for the climax of England's victory when the umpires declared the fifth Test a draw at 1815 BST on Monday.

Channel 4's 23.2% audience share for the day beat its previous record of 22.8% for the end of Big Brother 3 in July 2002.

The channel drew a bigger share than BBC One or ITV1, which got 21.4% each.

We are delighted to see cricket restored to national popularity once more
Kevin Lygo, Channel 4

Meanwhile, BBC Two could manage only a 5.9% share of all people watching TV on Monday, according to overnight figures.

The fifth and final Test at The Oval had the highest average ratings for a test match in the seven seasons that Channel 4 has been covering the game, with three million viewers.

A total of two million people watched the morning session on the final day, while 4.7m tuned in for the afternoon session.

Half of all TV viewers were tuned in when England batsman Kevin Pietersen reached his century.

The previous highest average ratings for a match on Channel 4 was 2.9m for the fourth test against Australia at Trent Bridge in the current series.

'Payback'

That game attracted a peak audience of 8.4m.

Channel 4's director of television, Kevin Lygo said: "We are delighted to see cricket restored to national popularity once more.

"Yesterday's result is a wonderful payback on our six years of investment in the sport.

"The production team at [TV production company] Sunset and Vine and the outstanding commentary team, guided by the master Richie Benaud, must take huge credit for having helped re-invigorate cricket coverage."

This summer's Ashes was, however, the last Test Channel 4 held the rights to show.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has signed an exclusive deal with Sky to show all Test cricket until 2009, with highlights to be carried on Five.

In 1998, the government decided that Test cricket should no longer be a listed "crown jewel" event that had to be shown on terrestrial TV.

But Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the situation could be reviewed when the contract next came up for grabs.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "Everything will change around 2008/9 when we expect the analogue signal will start to be switched off and the whole country will go digital, and at that point it will be right to review the whole of the 'crown jewels' listings and look at this again."




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