Northamptonshire v Derbyshire, County Championship, the County Ground (Wantage Road), 7 July

You may have noticed a little rain today, after a week or two of blazing sunshine.  Why is this?  I’d booked a day off work to go to the cricket.

I usually try, in the course of a season, to get to a few grounds other than Grace Road.  Trent Bridge is a particular favourite, I usually make it to Lords a few times, the Oval occasionally;  Derby I used to visit when they had a reciprocal agreement with Leicestershire and then – of course – there’s Northamptonshire – this is where I watched my earliest cricket and if there’s anywhere I’m likely to encounter a soundless clapping host it’s here.

A visit to Northampton by bus deserves an entry in itself, which I’ll save for another time, but I’ll just note in passing that the Abington Mission is now (in a clunkingly obvious irony) the Urban Tiger – a lapdancing club.  The nearby statue of Charles Bradlaugh is stranded on a traffic island,  the inscriptions illegible, pointing an accusing finger at something – possibly the town itself, although it could be that he can’t decide between the Urban Tiger (to his left) – when he was prosecuted for obscenity I don’t suppose this was quite what he had in mind – and the Jesus Centre (a disused cinema) to his right.

Anyway, to the cricket.  There wasn’t a great deal of it.  Ben Howgego (who must present a challenge to the dressing room nickname deviser – Howgegoey?  Howgego-oh?)  was out for a duck to Nantie Hayward (an itinerant South African).  A little later he was in the club shop snaffling some linseed oil, so perhaps there was a problem with his bat.  Chris Rodgers (an itinerant Australian)* hit a few boundaries and then a furious devout drench (c. Ted Hughes) and they were off. 

During the play that was possible, an apparently quite drunk spectator sang loudly O Derby Derby, Derby Derby Derby Derby Derbyshire, uttered several ‘orrible oaths and was eventually carted off  by the gentle and comparatively elderly gatemen.  Seems a bit harsh, but must have set a new record for the quickest ejection from a ground on the first day of a County Championship match in July.

My attention was distracted by two bees on the ground by my feet.  One was lying supine, the other behind it, tugging at it frantically.  At first I assumed the first bee was dead (I’ve seen so many this year) and the other was trying to revive or rescue  it.  A more hopeful interpretation would be that they were mating (do bees mate?).  When I returned after the first downpour they’d gone.

During the rest of the day I took a few snaps of my father’s memorial bench – this gave me a start last year when I visited Northampton, looked idly, during a slow passage of play, at the brass plate on the bench I was sitting on and saw my father’s name and dates- and bought the Playfair Annuals for 1966, 1968 and 1969 from the little half- timbered building by the old scorebox which now acts as the Supporters’ Club Shop.  I (and my father between us) have been accumulating these every year since 1970, and I’ve now started trying to collect the annuals prior to this.  A treasure house, for those that know how to interpret them.  

Anyway, the hour at the beginning of the day was all we were going to get, so eventually we went home. 

A small tip – if you’re planning any outdoor events for next Monday I’d cancel them now – I’ve booked a day off work to watch the cricket.

* A quick update – this wasn’t in fact Chris Rogers,  who played for Northants last year – he now plays for Derbyshire and took the catch to dismiss Howgego.  The runscorers were Peters and R. White (his name, I think, rather than his sponsor).  Very fast moving, the modern game – can be a bit disorientating for the older generation.

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