The odyssey brings me this afternoon to the County Ground Chelmsford for the Royal London One day cup match of Essex versus Somerset – a day/night affair.
My third game of cricket in three days at three different venues – what a contrast!
The freely open spaces of the Oval, the relaxed and welcoming approach, letting the cricket speak for itself in stark contrast to today! The history and majesty of Lord’s, the atmosphere of a Test match – a keenly fought contest of strategy and plans; and to today to what can be best described as ‘shabby chic’ of the County Ground Chelmsford, cooped up like battery hens as swathes of seats have been covered and taken out of use, barriers directing you to where to go, a PA system which can’t be heard everywhere but where it is has regular irrelevant bursts of musak and adverts for whatever the county are trying to sell, free wifi in name only as it can’t cope with numbers of users…
But each in its own way reflective of our cricket history and traditions.
To the cricket…floodlights on from the start, Somerset choosing to field in cloudy overcast conditions hoping the white ball will seam or swing but we shall see!
After 30 minutes, Essex reach 52 for 2 off 7 overs – set off like a steam train but likely to perish if you live by the sword; it looks like a 300-320 pitch but it will need one steady head to get Essex there. After an hour Essex reach 78 for 3 with Chopra dominating everything. The bowling seems innocuous.
The rate of scoring slows as the power plays take effect and Chopra with Bopara plough on. The bowling is all pace but there’s no discernible swing or seam sitting at long leg/off etc. The constant adverts begin to wear the patience down (where you’re unlucky enough to hear them) but the crowd builds and the afternoon beer flows. By the evening, the flowing will become rivers!
Essex CCC and the ground are trying to be something they’re not…they try to promote the game in the Premier League/Rugby Premiership style in terms of off-field activities and infrastructure and support but it just doesn’t work in this shabby chic – develop the ground and facilities and then upgrade the model and bring in the razzmatazz but it doesn’t work now!
Chopra and Bopara bring up the 100 partnership and then the 150 even with Somerset turning to spin -this is not their usual Ciderabad type pitch and you wonder where the next wicket is coming from – body language says it all! After minutes of ‘messing about’ with bat changes, measurements, ball changing and the obligatory drink for no reason, Bopara falls the next ball for a fine 73. Chopra reaches his hundred and some in the crowd go wild with excitement – the job is only half done at 215-4 after 40 overs. But still on track for 300/320.
The end comes at 313 after Chopra falls for 160 in a real tour de force but the rest, forcing the pace, were after the Lord Mayor’s Show in more ways than one. This is a young and inexperienced Essex bowling attack – Wagner and Harmer as overseas imports excepted – so we shall see if 314 can be achieved.
I’m heading home as it’s chilly in the late afternoon and will get a lot colder as the sun sets. Day/night cricket in the UK only works when there’s a heat wave…and that’s not today!
I also need to check on the Test – the lack of wi-fi and any other scores from the PA was poor (perhaps the announcer is paid by the advert or musak blast) – and to prepare for Day 4 of this odyssey and a change of ball/game/venue and number of players – the Aviva Premiership Final (an annual treat) at Twickers calls – all subject to rail replacement bus services over a Bank Holiday weekend to boot!