Northamptonshire v Middlesex, Wantage Road, County Championship (day 3), 23 April
As this blog nears its first anniversary (tomorrow), and we move into a second cricket season, I realise that there is a danger of me starting to repeat myself. There are only so many things one can say about the County Ground in Northampton and I fear that I must have said most of them last year. Still, there’s always the cricket.
I suppose the main attraction yesterday was the rare opportunity to see Andrew Strauss playing county cricket. In fact, in my case, a rare chance to see him playing any kind of cricket. As I don’t have Sky, any player awarded a central contract immediately moves out of my ken and I have to rely on newspaper reports and TMS for my knowledge of their doings. I might as well be living in the 1930s.
Well you’d be much happier living in the ‘thirties, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about (reader’s voice).
I must, in fact, have seen Strauss play quite often. When I lived in London I watched much less cricket than I do now, but when I did it was generally Middlesex. Occasionally a young player immediately suggests himself as a future test prospect – a Broad or a Taylor. The first time I saw Pietersen he smashed most of the windows in the Meet and peppered the roof for good measure. If I hadn’t been under the (wholly mistaken) impression that he was South African, I would have had him down too. But Strauss barely registered with me. I’d be keeping an eye on, say, Hutton or Joyce, and hardly notice that this cramped looking opener was quietly accumulating runs in the background.
He barely registered yesterday either. I think if you’d told a small boy (not that there were any small boys at the ground, no sneaking off from school and climbing over the wall in evidence) that they were going to be taken to see the Captain of England, and that he was opening the batting for Middlesex, that boy would have come away with the impression that Scott Newman was that Captain. They opened the batting together shortly after lunch. Strauss was out for 32 shortly before tea having given two chances along the way. Newman scored at twice his pace and, after tea, really cut loose to score 112 in 139 balls.
What else is new? Northants suddenly look a poor side. It’s good to see Sales back from injury, and Loye back from Lancashire, but having lost Van der Wath (to changes in the regulations re. Kolpaks) and Panesar (to – I suspect – mishandling) the bowling looks unthreatening. I realise that, in saying they are a poor side, I am unconsciously echoing my Grandfather, who would always insist, even in the days (the early seventies) when they had a very good side, that “County not up to much these days”. It’s a very Northamptonshire trait.
Oh, yes. All the Panesar-related merchandise (the I love Monty t-shirts, for instance, one of which I bought for my mother (she has a dog called Monty)) has vanished from the club shop. Not even remaindered. Sic transit Gloria Monty.
One thing that hasn’t changed, to continue my series Curious Erections on the Cricket Grounds of England, is this – The Signal Box. Whether it ever was a genuine signal box I don’t know, though I doubt it. It is apparently the only part of the ground that remains from its opening in 1908, though some of the Middlesex supporters seemed to think that the sandwiches may have been equally old. It used to house the scorers and the press box (or media centre, in today’s terms), but is now the home of the Supporters’ Club and its splendid range of second-hand books. Note the attractive half-timbering.
Postcript (Sunday morning) : I see from this morning’s paper that – exactly as I had predicted – Northants (who do look a very good side this year) – won the match by six wickets, thanks to an unbeaten 183 from opener Stephen Peters. I never doubted them for a second!