Leicestershire v Durham, Clydesdale 40 overs, Grace Road, Monday 3rd May
Leicestershire v Worcestershire, County Championship, Grace Road, Tuesday 4th May
Back in the days of the last Government (last Monday) I was back at Grace Road, to see another Clydesdale 40 over match. Leicestershire were playing Durham,and it was being televised for Sky. I suppose it suggests how fractured the English cricketing world has become that this was the first time that I (who don’t have Sky and don’t attend 20/20 matches) had actually witnessed some of the innovations that some find so offputting. I entered the ground to see the Durham team going through their fielding routines to the strains of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear us Apart. I saw the huge LCD screen, of the type that I imagine Kevin Pietersen has in his living room, which I hadn’t realised was carried round on a lorry. Periodically the DJ gave us a quick blast of the song that goes “I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night“. I could just about see that if you were arriving after work on a fine evening for a floodlit 20/20, with an evening of lager and BLT maximums to look forward to, this might put an extra spring in your step, but on a freezing Sunday afternoon it all seemed endearingly ramshackle and out of synch with what was actually going on (or off) on the pitch.
The other day I was complaining about the way in which fielding restrictions had made life difficult for the good honest fast medium carthorse. Well this match was enough to make the flintiest-hearted Fleetwood seamer rejoice. A biting wind, perishing cold, lowering clouds and a bit of moisture in the pitch. Sam Cliff soon had Mustard back where he belongs (in the hutch) for 0, before he could get up to any of his pinch-hitting tricks. To my mind he should have walked back in the traditional funereal silence, but was, of course, accompanied by a quick blast of “Tonight’s gonna be a good night”, or something similar. It seemed we were in for a classic afternoon of playing and missing, snicking and runs grudgingly ground out in the face of adversity. But then, of course, it began to rain, and continued to rain for a couple of hours.
The DJ ran through his repertoire of rain songs (I can’t stand the rain and so on), the big screen took us back to last year’s Edgbaston test against Australia, and we all crowded into the Fox Bar to watch TV and wonder whether it was worth staying. Finally the rain relented and the innings resumed. Durham eventually scored 156 in 26 overs. So Leicestershire had to score 156 in their 26 overs? No, of course not. Thanks to Duckworth-Lewis they thought they needed 176 in 26 overs. In fact they should have been set a target of 181, but somehow the software had blundered. I’m not entirely convinced the batsmen knew how many runs they were meant to be getting, and I’m fairly sure the crowd didn’t. In the end they managed 154-8.
I think someone should produce a new version of those tea towels they sell, supposedly showing how baffling the rules of cricket are to simple souls like Americans, updated to incorporate the Duckworth-Lewis method. Perhaps a king-size bath towel would be big enough?
As ever though, even without the music, there are plenty of things to see on a cricket ground besides the cricket. As this snap demonstrates, there really is something for everyone from eight to eighty – an abandoned bouncy castle and (in the background) a mobile renal dialysis unit!
And of course this new, more vibrant form of the game attracts all sorts of people, who might not have been interested in the game before. It’s not quite legible, but the legend on the back of these young ladies’ parkas reads “Platinum Lace Gentleman’s Club”. I am a bit surprised that establishments of this sort issue their employees with parkas, and that they seem to organise works outings to the cricket. All are welcome, of course, but I do wonder how today’s young batsmen are meant to concentrate on their batting technique with this trio a bumpin’ and a grindin’ down at the boundary edge.
This blog says: Ladies – restrain yourselves! Taylor: head down and keep your eye on the ball!
On Tuesday I was back for the first day of the Championship game against Worcestershire, which – as I’m sure we all know – ended badly for Leicestershire. For those who like to keep up with the latest trends in cricketing argot, though, I did manage to pick up that “Good areas” now seems to be very old hat. The proper phrase – at Leicester, at least – is now “Gorgeous places”. “Gorgeous!” cried Hoggard. “Gorgeous places!” came back the echo from the slip cordon. Be the first to use it at your ground …