Sunday, 21 June 2015

Trent Bridge

England v New Zealand

17th June 2015

I was acutely aware that on those three occasions when I had previously ventured south to take in some cricket, I had only seen just a bit of a game i.e. one day of either a four or five day match.  I was keen to experience one of the one-day affairs, particularly so when I had noted that England and New Zealand were both presently serving up entertainingly tense run-fests.  But in truth, although I saw just shy of 700 runs scored here today, the contest turned out to be a disappointingly one-sided affair.

One of the first differences I noticed once play commenced was:  “Wow, white ball!”  One could see where the blighter was at all times, and it made me ponder why the sport persevered with the red one.  Tradition is a powerful force in cricket clearly. 

The other, rather less endearing, aspect of the one-day format which was also new to me was the intrusive blast of pop music which announced a four or six being scored, a dismissal, or even just the completion of an over.  Do the organisers really believe the average cricket attendee’s attention span is so short that such gaps require to be filled with muzak?  Apparently so.

The gable on the roof of the Trent Bridge Radcliffe Road Stand

The Radcliffe Road Stand, Trent Bridge.

Trent Bridge large screen scoreboard.

That there were folks inside the the Trent Bridge Inn (which is inside the ground itself)
watching the cricket on TV, just struck me as not quite right,

Panorama of Trent Bridge, Nottingham.

The tourists having won the toss, elected to bat, and swiftly settled down into efficient run-making mode.  With the England pace bowlers toiling to make much headway and the visitors looking comfortable at 142 for 2, spinner Adil Rashid was called into the fray.  And whilst he appeared initially to cause a few problems with his languid almost lazy style, the Black Caps soon got to grips with the spins.  The Kiwi’s endured a further wobbly spell at around 250 when the home attack appeared to have Elliot pinned down and unable to score, but he somehow clung on until the end of the innings, contributing a creditable 55.

Even so, NZ looked unlikely to amass a total much beyond 300 until, in the third from last over Mitchell Santer bashed Rashid for 28 in a single over.  “That could be a match-losing over” said a lugubrious voice from behind me.  Looking at Rashid's shell-shocked face on the big screen, I also thought it could just as easily also be a career-ending over.

Over three and a half hours England had batted, and I pondered if I had ever sat anywhere for so long in my life before.

The seats really were uncomfortably hard in The New Stand, as it is still called.  Plus they had certainly been crammed in close together.   I didn’t mind the pleasantly chatty chap to my left, but could have done without the overweight bloke with the scabby ear on my right who wheezed and puffed his way through the whole innings, jabbing me in the ribs each time he decided to interrogate his mobile (which was frequently). 

But the final straw came during one of the "hydration breaks", where he stood up to stretch and turn to speak to his companion and presented to my face the hairiest arse-cleavage I have ever seen.  And if it was not quite a full moon, it was at least a waning gibbous job.  I decided it was time to be elsewhere.

Martin Guptill

Martin Guptill with this afternoon's water carrier Colin Munro

Guptill thwacks one skywards........

..... to be caught by Steven Finn

Adil Rashid bowls to Ross Taylor

Fox Road Stand, Trent Bridge

Adil Rashid does his thing.

The improbably-youthful and impossibly-talented Mr Root.  

View from the wind-swept Larwood & Voce Stand 

I wandered around to the neat little Larwood & Voce Stand, where I had noted there were a number of empty seats.  But it soon became clear why as, due to some bizarre confluence of local weather and Trent Bridge topography a bitterly cold wind blew right into the stand.  Additionally, I swiftly discovered the area offered no shelter from the, thankfully brief, rain shower.  So it was back The New Stand, where I decided the lesser evil was to stand behind the top row of seats, where I have to relate the view was rather fine.  It was certainly buttock-free.

But by the time I had settled into my position however, it was apparent the match was over as contest.  For England openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales had rattled to a 100 partnership in what appeared like no time at all.  And although both were dismissed before too long, the damage done was both decisive an irreparable.  As we all know, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan subsequently came to the crease to each score a century to allow England to chase down the New Zealand total of 349 with 6 overs to spare. 

Now I am not one to attempt to underplay the fine performances of these last two named, but I would suggest the real stars of this win were the aforementioned Roy and Hayes.  Their work allowed their two colleagues to come in a face a demoralised NZ attack, to chase a readily achievable run rate of less than six an over.

Consequently Root and O’Brien were able to enjoy the luxury of picking up regular singles, able to bide their time to punish the slightest weakness in the Kiwi attack.  Tourists Ben Wheeler and the grunting Mitchell McClenaghan in particular ensured a wretched time, with the pair shipping a total of 139 wicketless runs.

Alex Hales

Joe Root celebrating his century with Ben Stokes

Floodlit Trent Bridge

Panorama of Trent Bridge, Nottingham

My decision to forego a seat I had paid good money for was perhaps not such a bizarre decision as it appears.  For, although broken by an overnight stay at the spartan but perfectly acceptable National Water Sports Centre, attending Trent Bridge represented for me a round trip of some 664 miles.  Which is a heck of a long time spent sitting in a car seat.  So being able to stand represented a bit of a novelty.

The hours in the car were made rather more bearable by much of them being spent in the company of poet and author Simon Armitage.  Or, to be strictly accurate, listening to him narrate his book Walking Home.  Plucked almost at random from the shelves of my local library the tale, an account of the author’s traverse along The Pennine Way funded solely from the proceeds from poetry recitals along the route, initially appeared a rather unpromising premise for a narrative.

But Simon’s book proved to be witty, entertaining, thought-provoking, and even on at least half-a-dozen or so occasions, guffaw-out-loud hilarious.

I could particularly empathise with his bewilderment upon, after 10 days or so in the wilderness, encountering the thundering traffic on the A66.  Five or so years ago I and a friend had cycled along the Hadrian’s Wall route from Carlisle to Newcastle, and even after just a couple of days of exposure to leafy cycle paths and barely-used country roads, coming upon a major junction just outside Newcastle was a disorientating experience indeed.  And that was just after 36 hours.

In one of those odd coincidences I found myself driving along the A66 returning from this trip just as Simon was narrating his encounter with the same road, and I learned of the tunnel built under the road to facilitate safe crossing by Pennine Way hikers.  I thought I may rather like to see this, but was disappointed to note it was sited near the village of Bowes which I knew I had passed some miles back.

I (very) briefly considered turning back, but decided this journey really had already been long enough.

Simon Armitage - Walking home

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