Northamptonshire 2nd XI v Leicestershire 2nd XI, Desborough, 29th June 2011
Not the most urgent news regarding Leicestershire cricket this weekend, but for the record, and before the details vanish from my memory completely, the first of two minor matches I attended earlier in the season (though it’s the grounds, rather than the games, that I seem to have recorded).
Desborough is a town with an honourable history (the home of Captain Pouch, leader of the Midland Revolt of 1607) and still, substantially, a Co-op town, but it does seem to have hit evil times recently. If you get off the bus in the town centre at the wrong time (2.00 on a Saturday afternoon, for instance) you half expect to see tumbleweed blowing up the high street.
When I saw that Northants and Leicester Seconds were playing there, I thought it might act as a sort of palate cleanser between the overly rich courses of my visits to Lord’s. I had in my mind that they would be playing at the Waterworks Ground (where the football team play, and about as glamorous as it sounds) and didn’t realise until the night before that they had moved to a new ground at the West Lodge Farm Centre.
This is a sort of children’s farm-themed attraction about 3 miles from Desborough. Happily it was a bright morning and the walk was pleasant, taking me past the poppy fields that I mentioned earlier –
The ground’s location makes it one of the more interesting sounding ones to visit. On one side a field of sheep kept up a chorus of baa-ing, on another a sort of miniature railway went past periodically. The farm centre itself is shielded from the pitch by a line of trees (usefully so, as New and Smith played some lofted straight drives that might have hit a child on the bonce or stunned a meerkat) –
If the action palls, there are some long-horned cattle in a nearby field –
or you can always just sit and gaze at the Big Sky of Northamptonshire
On the pitch, Leicestershire featured those of the first XI who weren’t being used in the 20/20 that evening (Boyce, New, Smith, Malik, Naik and – having a first game after returning from injury – Nathan Buck), not to mention P.G. Dixey. Boyce and New, as we know, can make runs against 2nd XI attacks all day, and that was mostly what we saw them doing.
Both sides featured one of the new breed of super-sized (6’7″) fast bowlers in Luke Evans of Northants and Alex Wyatt for Leicester, but neither were as effective as the unobtrusive Buck. Rob Newton (who we saw score a maiden century against Leicester at the end of last season, but hasn’t yet established himself this year) coped easily against shortish stuff from Wyatt and the 6’4″ Malik but was cramped and dismissed by Buck, who made the ball rear and move off a fuller length.
Northants’s most successful batsman was a stocky character with the memorable name of Guptill-Bunce – apparently a wicket-keeper from New Zealand, of uncertain status.
The pavilion was a homely, clubbable affair with yellowing cuttings about a guest appearance from John Dye on the wall. A treatment table had been set up in the bar area, and one of Northants players came straight off the pitch and went to sleep on it, oblivious to the chatter of the bar staff and officials, who were watching Wimbledon on a TV a few feet above his head and shouting encouragement. This is a skill that will stand him in good stead if makes a career as a County professional.