Leicestershire v Northants: Grace Road, Friday 9th April 2010.
First day of the season yesterday at Grace Road, and what a fine day it was. In spite of the sceptics (e.g. me) who had argued that it was madness to start the season this early in the year, the weather was of the kind that one dreams of at 3.30 in the morning in January. The crowd was one of the largest that I’ve seen quite a while at Grace Road, reflecting, I think, a sense of renewed hope about the future of the county.
When play got under way that optimism was dented a little by the quick dismissals of lofty new opener Will Jefferson and Paul Nixon (batting at no.3). This brought James Taylor to the wicket to join Matt Boyce. Taylor started slowly and almost imperceptibly accumulated 50, then accelerated in the sixties and seventies with some sweet drives and cuts. With support from Boyce, Cobb and New, he had made 79 at tea and looked set for another century.
After tea – O Calamity! – he played on to Lee Daggett and returned to the pavilion in high dudgeon (see picture above), giving a barrier a quick swipe with his bat as he did so. After I’d left (to catch the last bus) Tom New and Wayne White put on a century partnership to take the score past 300 by the close of play.
What else was new? Some delicious new pies in the Meet (I’d certainly recommend the chicken, leek and ham, and look forward to sampling the full range in the course of the season). A shrine has been erected to James Taylor in the museum area. In a slightly less welcome development, the Fox Bar seems to have been taken over by Cafe Nero, although I’m pleased to say that the stuffed foxes, club ties and caps are still present and correct.
I also spotted a sprightly looking Mike Denness signing autographs and humming “Oh what a beautiful morning”. And indeed it was, and a pretty good afternoon as well.
Back on Sunday, I hope.
(I don’t know how long this link will last, but if anyone wants to watch Taylor in action for themselves the ECB is, this season, providing video highlights of all County Championship matches, and these are yesterday’s highlights – Leicestershire v Northants).