Fifth day of the odyssey

Before I start on the travails of the fifth day, I need to address an omission from yesterday’s blog – for the first time in a long time, the ghost of Bill McLaren in having an expert of two sitting behind me wasn’t there and it was a pleasure to watch a game without others opinions being rammed down your throat!

Anyway, today -the fifth of this short odyssey- was the second innings of the one day Royal London one day cup match between Essex and Surrey at Chelmsford. Only the second innings as domestic duties were required this morning as well as keeping an eye on the decline of England and ascent of Pakistan at Lord’s.

One of the issues with one day cricket is that it becomes formulaic and becomes immediately un-memorable so one turns to find the more unusual aspects of the game. Well, I’ve been coming to the County Ground at Chelmsford for over 30 years and whilst the slope at Lords is of high renown there are aspects of other grounds which look unusual and here at Chelmsford there seems to be a hollow at one end into which feet can disappear- hence the umpire above looks as if he is footless as opposed to footloose!

And another thing.,.

Whilst Chelmsford is a little way from the coast, seagulls still visit from time to time but this one, patrolling the outfield at mid on, seemed to have a longer tail than most…like some cricket teams over many a year!

And to the cricket…Essex batted first and scored 294 with Surrey using the same strategy as last week of having three spinners bowling the middle overs. Surrey score 295 with wickets and overs to spare. Elgar, Roy and Foakes all batting well and with style and getting into the runs.

The good thing is that no team in either division is dominating the tournament yet so every game is important to every side and net run rate could come into play by the end. But we shall see.

Off the field and elsewhere, corruption stories are developing- seems the 1st Test in Galle in November I’m going to see has already been decided and parts of India v England in Chennai in 2016 were allegedly ‘fixed’. Some English and Australian players are having their integrity called into question but these are just allegations at the moment and giving the media something to feed on…when they really should look at the state of English cricket at test and first class level and also how and why Pakistan did so well when their own domestic game is in such turmoil.

Tomorrow is the odyssey’s ‘rest day’ and back to the Oval on Tuesday for more one day fare.

Day 4 – change of ball, rail replacement services and warm temperatures!

And so to Twickers for my second love – rugby union – and the final of the Aviva Premiership. The hope was that Wasps would make it to the final for the second year in succession but it was not to be as they were railroaded by Saracens in the semi-final last week.

My technical knowledge of the game is not, in my opinion, worthy of being able to provide a detailed analysis of the match or individual phases but it was clear that for the first 10 minutes or so that Exeter would provide worthy opponents and the prospects were for an exciting and excellent final. However, having taken an early lead, Exeter then succumbed to an onslaught by Saracens so much that a substantial lead was built up by half time; Exeter seemed to lose the ability to do the basics right which is essential in any and every sport. Again, team dynamics are key and as soon as one set of errors crept into the Exeter game, then others followed; Saracens on the other hand went from strength to strength.

Exeter perhaps made the mistake of not choosing all their experienced players to take the field from the start – their standard improved noticeably once the experienced players came off the bench but by that time it was too late. I doubt if any team could beat Saracens in their current string of form.

Twickenham always puts on a great show and the atmosphere from the 75,000 in the ground was tangible. There were no issues between fans – the final draws an eclectic mix from all of the Premiership clubs – and you can find yourself in the middle of fans from the finalists, but also most of the other large clubs who nearly made it to the final four. It was all very good humoured – as rugby always is – and with temperatures in the East Stand reaching the high 20s as the late spring sun shone all afternoon, the beer flowed and a great time was had by all.

And was it warm! The forecast had been for rain or showers and having set out under cloudy skies, a series of layers of clothing seemed to be a good idea! How wrong that proved as the travails of travelling and the fun of a rail replacement bus service kicked in – at least the coach had air con but London underground still needs investment to improve their carriages!

Whilst appreciating that the rail system needs work and investment and choosing holiday weekends when travelling numbers are low to do the work seems fine in theory, it’s clear that not that many Network Rail managers venture out on such days to experience the fun of rail replacement services! Almost doubling the time for each journey is not a lot of fun.

But back to the rugby experience – there are few large events which come close to a full house experience at Twickenham but it is very family friendly and youth oriented which is great for the game. Ok, test matches can’t always be played during school holidays so there were very few if any youngsters at Lords this week – and if we believe the ECB children don’t like cricket anyway (so…didn’t they see the keenness of the exhibition by the youngsters at the lunch interval on the outfield at Lords – or were they too busy with their backs to the play?) but the old adage of capture their imagination at an early age and they’re hooked for life. The only aspect which needs work is to increase diversity across the game or at least the paying public – Twickenham tends to look like the British middle class at prayer but that, along with cricket, may have more to do with its imperialist past and history (and possibly ticket prices!) than we like to think.

Anyway, no more live rugby watching for a few months and it’s back to white ball cricket for the next couple of weeks – heading off to see Essex play Surrey in the Royal London one day cup late, assuming the forecast rain holds off.

And finally…an interesting yet probably futile statistic – 75,000 attended the Aviva Premiership final yet only 61,000 the European football final in Kiev – kicking off at 10pm local time was probably not a good idea to attract the local fans?