Nottinghamshire v Somerset, Trent Bridge, County Championship, 20th April 2012
I think it was the poet Stevie Smith who once wrote …
“Why does it only rain when I go to Trent Bridge? It does not. I only go to Trent Bridge when I think it is going to rain.”
Well, not quite. My choices on Friday were to go to Derby to watch Leicestershire, which would have cost me £17.50 on the train and £13.00 on the gate, or to go to Nottingham to watch Notts v Somerset, which cost £17.50 on the train and nothing (as a Leicestershire member) to get in.
If I’d been guaranteed a full day’s play I’d have splashed out on Derby, but as I was expecting rain, I chose Trent Bridge. Trent Bridge is a more attractive place to watch the rain fall than Derby, and if you have to cut your losses and leave early, Nottingham boasts more alternative attractions than the other place. I suppose this illustrates which I usually describe myself as a Leicestershire member rather than a fan.
In the event, although there were false alarms all morning, the rain didn’t set in in earnest until tea time, and there was even a spell of glorious heat immediately after lunch, which almost sent me to sleep. In most sports this wouldn’t be a compliment, but in County Cricket it’s a sign that the old game is working its magic once more.
Apart from that spell in the afternoon those Early Season Conditions are still in operation (and, looking at the weather forecast, look set to continue until the arrival of T20 in June). Notts were on 93-6 overnight, 52 of those having been contributed by Chris Read, and most of the damage done by Peter Trego. It looked like I’d be seeing Trescothick in action by about 11.30. But not so.
Trego continued to flummox the batsmen by doing the obvious things (for a medium paced seamer) sensibly. Read continued to bat sensibly for the conditions and made a century with a bit of sensible, unselfish tail end support from Harry Gurney. When June comes around, it won’t be any spectacular performances that will have placed counties at the head of the tables, but seamers who’ve made the most of the cold and damp, and batsmen who’ve kept their heads and picked their way through the minefield, taking advantage of the breaks in the cloud cover.
The morning’s entertainment was enhanced by the performance of Steve Kirby, probably the best physical comedian in first class cricket, a sort of more belligerent Stan Laurel. The first time I saw him in action was at Leicester in about 2002, when he hurled the ball at Darren Maddy’s head from about five paces (I think the two had history from Kirby’s time on the staff at Grace Road). When he returned to the pavilion, I think it was the nearest I’ve ever seen to a cricketer being lynched.
In his maturity, his act is now more like a wrestler in the Mick McManus mould, prowling the boundary and engaging in pantomime banter with the crowd. He did shape up to throw the ball at the batsman a couple of times, but you know he isn’t actually going to do it these days.
One thing I did notice (with some envy) was how regular the run ups of both Kirby and Trego were, as revealed by their footmarks on the damp turf
both had bowled virtually unchanged through the match and you can see how their feet have hit the same spots with perfect precision.
The other big event of the morning was Marcus Trescothick twisting his ankle.
As he is one of the few genuine big beasts left in the the Championship, a long-term injury would be a major blow to Somerset, and there were groans from the West Country men behind me when he went down, though, in the event, it doesn’t look as though he’ll be out for more than a couple of weeks.
Nottinghamshire’s major acquisition from Leicestershire doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression yet, though he has been persuaded to continue his unwilling career as a catalogue model (if ever an expression said ‘Can I go now, please?‘ this is it) –
The other player that Notts have snaffled from the Foxes – Harry Gurney – seemed to the major talking point among the home contingent, who seemed impressed by his pace. Gurney had a puzzling career at Grace Road, playing only 17 first class matches since his debut in 2007 (and not doing much in any of them), not being a regular in the one day side, but being a star of T20 (which I never get to see).
Bowling left arm over he had Compton in all sorts of problems to begin with, bowling three maidens in his first three overs and causing the batsman to insist that one side of the area in front of the pavilion should be cleared of members to allow him a better view.
After lunch, though, the sun shone and the demons in the pitch joined me in dozing off. Suppiah and Compton played watchfully (against what was, frankly, some fairly ordinary bowling) through until the sudden downpour just before tea ended proceedings.
As we now know, on the Saturday, Suppiah and Hildreth went on to make hundreds and Compton a double, with Gurney taking 0-89. As I write, Taylor is in the position he so often found himself in at Leicester, of being asked to dig his side out of a deep hole in the second innings.
Already, voices are being raised (albeit mainly on Twitter) suggesting Compton could fill that troublesome no. 6 slot. I wonder, if so, whether anyone would object to yet another South African (he has a stronger accent than Trott, for instance) being chosen for England? Or does it make a difference who your English grandfather was?
On this showing, Nottinghamshire looked prime candidates for relegation, and I wouldn’t be amazed if Leicestershire were to be promoted. Given Taylor’s desire for First Division cricket, I wonder if he could be tempted back to Grace Road?