Derbyshire v Surrey, Queen’s Park, Chesterfield, County Championship, 28th June
Mark Nicholas, in this month’s Wisden Cricketer (for the article in its full horror, see How to make 18 go into 12 ) writes
“It would be no shame for some counties to relinquish their first-class status … Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire – to name four of six or seven – exist for no obviously justifiable reason.”
I don’t know what reason Nicholas thinks would justify the existence of a County Cricket Club, but let us imagine bundling this silvery-tongued reptile into an unmarked car and taking him to see the day’s cricket I saw last Monday at Chesterfield, just to be sure he knows what he is so casually consigning to oblivion.
The decline of the out ground is one of the great shames of our cricketing era. Flicking through the fixture list for 1960 (the year I was born) we see the names Ilkeston, Burton-on-Trent, Ilford, Pontypridd, Llanelli, Stroud, Dudley, Snibston, Nuneaton (Griff Colliery), Coventry (Courtauld’s), Cowes, Worksop, Neath, Loughborough, Hinckley, Ashby, Worthing, Hastings, Maidstone, Bournemouth, Blackheath, Kettering, Wellingborough, Clacton, Dover, Harrogate, Portsmouth … Mostly gone now, like names from a pre-“Beeching” railway timetable, and like them they could, with a little effort, be rearranged into a mournful sort of poem of lament.
A few are left (or have emerged) – Scarborough, Croydon, Bath, Tunbridge Wells, Beckenham, Richmond, Arundel, Uxbridge, Guildford, Horsham, Basingstoke (as the list implies, a few enlightened counties are using outgrounds for 40 and 20 over matches this year).
Leicestershire have – alas! – abandoned the Oakham festival, which, until a couple of years ago, was one of the highlights of my cricketing year. Derbyshire, however, have seen the light and – after a break of some seven or eight years – returned to playing at what is, in my view (and the view of others, such as Jackie Hampshire) the most beautiful and suitable for its purpose of all county grounds – Queen’s Park, Chesterfield.
As the name implies, the park itself was initiated to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. I see that another five acres of land was subsequently purchased as a result of some “ladies” raising £1,000 from a “five-day bazaar”. Our thanks are due to these ladies – that must have been one hell of a jumble sale.
The park itself has a miniature railway, that can be viewed as it proceeds around the cricket ground –
The ground has a pleasant pavilion, unfortunately half-obscured here by a temporary sightscreen –
A conservatory, pressed into use as the club shop –
A hand-operated scoreboard (no. 3 here is Ramprakash, no.5 Younus Khan) –
stalls selling “Quality Fish and Chips” (which I can vouch for), beers and Frederick’s (deservedly) award-winning ice creams. And all of this enjoyed by a substantial crowd – far from the three men and a dog of anti-Championship rhetoric – larger than anything I’ve seen at Derby, and quite possibly larger than the one for Leicestershire’s match at the Oval that I reported on a while back. Hardly a park bench or patch of grass to be had, and on a working Monday in term time, too – I imagine the crowds for the 20/20 matches at the weekend would have been even more substantial.
I don’t know whether M.C.J. Nicholas would agree, as I drop him off, suitably chastened, back at Skylab*, but this is the reason why Derbyshire (and Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire) exist – not to produce a successful Test team (though there is another argument there) but for its own sake – as a good thing in itself.
Do you see?
And the cricket? A 99 for Ramprakash and some smooth runs from Surrey’s current Galactico, Younus Khan. But , of course, you can read about that elsewhere, and it isn’t really, or entirely, the point.
*(Later: a correction – I believe Mark Nicholas works for another station that I can’t get on my telly, rather than Sky. Mind you, Sky’s cricket coverage could be presented by W.G. Grace, and I’d be none the wiser)