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Cricket has overtaken football as the UK’s favourite sport online, at least according to internet search queries as monitored by Hitwise.

Search Intelligence data for the past two months shows searches for 'cricket' overtook 'football' searches during the first Ashes test, in the week ending 23 July (a period outside the footbal season, we'd note). Though cricket searches subsequently dropped below those for football in the week ending 30 July, England’s strong showing against Australia has since pushed online interest to greater heights. Cricket-related searches peaked at 55 per cent greater than searches for football for the week ending 13 August, during the third Ashes test at Old Trafford and the opening weekend of football's new Premiership season.

With underdogs England 2-1 in the series and looking to win the Ashes for the first time in 18 years, interest in the summer game has been maintained while England’s humiliating World Cup qualifying defeat against Northern Ireland last night has only dampened the nation's love affair with the "beautiful game". Doubtless search results for overpaid, oversexed but tactically inept Swedish manager have soared through the roof though.

The fifth and final Ashes test began Thursday with England talisman Andrew Flintoff and opener Andrew Straus looking to steady the ship after lunch after England lost four wickets to Shane Warne, leaving the side at 194-4.

In addition to the increase in cricket searches since the beginning of the Ashes, traffic to cricket websites has continued to perform strongly. Over the last week, traffic to the sector has grown by 10 per cent, Hitwise report, building on a strong performance by the sector earlier this summer.

The top cricket site remains CricInfo (www.cricinfo.com), which claims 35 per cent of all cricket traffic and is the second most popular destination for online searches on the term ‘cricket’. The top destination is BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk), whilst Channel 4 (www.channel4.com), which is televising the Ashes series, is in third position. ®

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