Time, Gentlemen, Please! Closing Time in the Gardens of Wantage Road

Northamptonshire v Leicestershire, Wantage Road, County Championship, 13th September

If my writing about cricket has a point (other than my own amusement) it is to answer the question “what was it like to watch county cricket in 2010?”.  Well, sometimes the answer is, I’m afraid, deflating and dull.  

This one sounded promising.  Last match of the season, a local derby of sorts, Leicestershire needing a full 24 points to win promotion (assuming, admittedly, freak results for Glamorgan and Worcestershire).  If I’d chosen to attend on the Wednesday (which was a sort of Platonic September day – sun and haze and a hint of frost) then I would have seen my hopes  fulfilled – Leicestershire winning by ten wickets with a century from opener Greg Smith and Taylor finishing the season as he had narrowly failed to start it with a century and a half.  They just failed to get the 24 points (not scoring quickly enough to gain maximum batting points) and the freak results failed to materialise, but I can picture the scenes of general rejoicing as departing coach Tim Boon was chaired off the field by his young charges to the strains of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.

Unfortunately I chose to attend on the Monday, when it rained. 

Not all day, admittedly, though it felt like it, and – to be honest – if the rain had set in for good at lunchtime I would have called it a day (and a season) and gone to the pictures without too much regret.   It didn’t help that Northants (the spectators as much as the players) gave an instructive demonstration of the distinction between being disinterested (they had no chance of being promoted) and uninterested by seeming to be both simultaneously.  It was a day for mooching and wondering whether it is actually possible to watch too much cricket, to begin to see it through the eyes of one who doesn’t understand – (Why is he hitting that ball with that stick?  What’s the point of it?).

Off the field, it felt like that time in a pub when last orders have been called, and the staff are more anxious than the customers to be off home, glasses are ostentatiously cleared away and the lights dimmed.  The contractors couldn’t wait to begin the rather noisy process of ploughing up the old bowling green (what it is be replaced with I know not)

the sightscreens had been dumped in the car park and replaced by a vast sheet strung over the scaffolding in front of the pavilion, obscuring the view.  My father’s memorial bench was making itself useful by propping up the scaffolding.

I didn’t make a point of trying to sit on it.

The burger I had for lunch would have vexed the digestion of a goat.

For one young man, though, today will have proved unforgettable, however forgettable it may have been for the rest of us.  Northants Academy product Rob Newton (20) scored his maiden first-class century.  When this was announced over the Tannoy it was greeted with ripples of laughter.  The announcer who, like most of his kind, sounds as though he’d be happier reading the news on the Home Service dressed in a dinner jacket, had announced it as Newton’s maiden Test Match century.  Perhaps he was befuddled by having to announce periodically that the club were going to be staging the first performance of a musical entertainment based on the songs of Neil Diamond, directed by Craig Revell Horwood. 

Well there’s a thought to keep us going through the long winter months.

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