To Grace Road on Monday, where, once again, the crowd were in bank holiday mood. I don’t mean crapulously drunk and complaining about tailbacks on the M6, I mean jolly and relaxed, and who wouldn’t be with a 40 over match against Scotland in prospect? Not to mention a hog roast, a LOROS stall, several bouncy castles, a second hand bookseller with a complete set of Playfairs going back to the early ‘fifties, a raffle and all the general jollity that accompanies a visit from Sky Sports. A Churl, that’s who.
The 40-over league seems to be an oddity for professional sport, in that no-one seems to take it very seriously. The County Championship is obviously a serious matter, 20/20 matters (if only because of the amounts of money involved), Tests matter, but in these games the cricket seems to be a sideshow to the sunbathing, drinking and raffles.
When asked as to who was likely to win the competition in the Wisden Cricketer, Paul Farbrace of Kent said “It’s names out of a hat this one“, Chris Adams of Surrey “It’s a wild-card competition”. So relax – give it a go, seems to be the thinking.
Leicestershire batted first, with an experimental line-up, and showed very little sense of urgency against Scotland’s honest, but limited attack. Josh Cobb (opening) helped himself to sixty-odd, which will have done him good, but none of the long handle boys seemed much inclined to take advantage.
James Taylor came in first wicket down. The man described in the same edition of the WC as “Lilliputian in stature but gargantuan in his appetite for runs” and by Rob Smyth inThe Guardian as“A tiny man with an appetite for big hundreds” had stuffed himself to bursting point during the week with the third double century of his career against Loughborough UCCE, and didn’t seem to have much appetite left, but still – as a well brought up young man – tucked in, as it would have been rude not to, given that Scotland had provided him with such a generous buffet. He finished with 81*, and a final scoop shoot over his head for four (perhaps he was looking forward to a visit to the ice-cream van).
I had to leave between innings, as the players strolled off and the crowd milled. Leicestershire’s relaxed attitude proved justified, as Scotland fell comfortably short of their modest 253.
Taking the bus back to the station up Saffron Lane, we passed through the crowd of Leicester City fans flowing out from the Stadium of Crisps, which felt like being in a submarine breasting a shoal of exotic royal blue tropical fish.
While we’re on the subject of incursions on the pitch by the animal kingdom, my curiosity was piqued by this contraption –
My first thought was that this was a run for rabbits or guinea pigs, and that, in these times of “austerity”, we are using them to mow the square, but I’m told that we, in fact, have a problem with foxes running wild at Grace Road, and this is a humane trap.
I think this photograph illustrates the extent of the problem (far right) –