Varying Degrees of Absurdity at Trent Bridge

Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire, Trent Bridge, County Championship, 7th May 2011

My daughter, who is studying Camus at school, asked me the other day if I could define The Absurd for her.  I failed, but I might have been able to give her a better idea by taking her with me to Trent Bridge on Saturday.  (Camus was a footballer, of course, rather than a cricketer, so it might have been a more Beckettian variety that she was absorbing.)

The first absurdity, I suppose, was that I was going there in the first place.  There was clearly little chance of a result, it was drizzling when I left and the forecast was uncertain.  I do feel, though, that it’s the days spent sheltering in the stands and looking out for a sign of a break in the clouds that make one appreciate the days of unbroken sunshine.  And I can think of nowhere better to sit and watch the rain fall than Trent Bridge.

On the way, we saw a crude attempt at demonstrating the meaning of Absurdity from a group of Brighton and Hove Albion fans on their way to watch their team play Notts County.  They were dressed variously as Elvis Presley, Her Majesty the Queen, The Pope and so on, but this is now so commonplace that it scarcely raised an eyebrow.

It was drizzling when I arrived at the ground, but it began to clear at about noon.  It was announced that the players would be taking an early lunch (a bit soon after breakfast for my taste, but perhaps it was a hypothetical lunch).

It was when play got under way that the refinement of the absurdity showed itself.  Yorkshire had scored just over 500 in their first innings, Nottinghamshire slightly less.  Adam Lyth and Joe Sayers for Yorkshire had reached 23 for no wicket.  Now, it would not have been impossible, if Yorkshire had a captain with the gambling instincts of a Tennyson, or an Ingleby-MacKenzie (an unlikely scenario, I grant you) to try to achieve a result.

Throw caution to the winds, bat as if it was a one-dayer, declare 230 ahead with 30 overs to go and – who knows?  A friend whom I had run into at the ground and I were speculating romantically about this possibility when, behind us, a more realistic party pointed out that there would be declaration from Yorkshire – but only because their over rate was minus 2 and they would need some rapid bowling from their spinners to make up their quota if they were not to lose points.

My suspicion is that both sides would happily have shaken hands on a draw after five minutes, but were obliged to play as if for a victory that might have come if they had played for another three days.  Not only might a gamble have lost Yorkshire their points for the draw, but another sixteen points for Notts would have given them a head start in the Championship race.  Yorkshire were also due to play in Canterbury on Sunday afternoon, and must have fancied making an early getaway.

That’s not to say, of course, that Yorkshire approached their task in a frivolous spirit.  I have seen Adam Lyth compared (in a spirit of flattery) to Geoffrey Boycott, and he is no more likely than the Fitzwilliam man to pass up the chance of grinding out a half century, whatever the circumstances.  This he duly did, as Luke Fletcher repeatedly pinged the ball harmlessly over his head.

Yorkshire declared at tea, and this was where the absurdity moved from the implied to the overt.  At first Adil Rashid and another legitimate bowler whose name escapes me hurried through a few overs, but then, with 5 o’clock approaching and the coach to Canterbury (metaphorically) starting up its engine, we saw what I believe is the second over bowled by ex-Northamptonshire wicket-keeper Gerard Murphy in a 15-year first-class career.  This did the trick, and as the scoreboard showed the Yorkshire over rate click back to zero and the clock struck five, the teams shook hands and called it a day.

(I didn’t literally hear the clock strike five incidentally, but, if I had, it might have been this one – the Harold Larwood Memorial Clock.  I wonder why they gave him a clock?)

None of the above should be taken to imply that I didn’t enjoy myself, by the way.  Who could enjoy cricket – or anything else – without a healthy sense of the Absurd?

Coming soon on this blog – today’s action from Fenner’s, as Kevin Pietersen returned against Cambridge.  I wouldn’t take too much notice of what Pringle has to say about KP’s dismissal in tomorrow’s Telegraph, by the way.  Wasn’t back from the pub until 2.15 and missed the whole thing.

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