It takes an age…or two or three

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“Yes Simon – it’s one of those days!”

Back to the County Championship today and the first day of Essex v Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford.

After the unrelenting pace of the past month of one day games and the world record by England yesterday (remember it’s only 10 days ago that they lost to Scotland and the end of the world was forecast…but that’s the pace of life nowadays…nothing seems to be remembered beyond the short news cycle) going back to the four day game is a change for players and spectators alike; after yesterday’s events at Trent Bridge things seem tame and lacklustre but that’s only to be expected.

Nottinghamshire bat first and after an early alarm reach 103/2 at lunch and by mid afternoon 166/3. Taylor of Kiwi fame makes a finely paced 50 with power to add. Billy Root being left handed looks a mirror image of his famous brother and wears 66 – the game against Yorkshire could have umpires seeing double!

What is noticeable about the Essex faithful is how one-eyed they are; probably more than any other set of members. Only good play by Essex is recognised and when you applaud the other side for a fine shot or innings, the feeling of being a traitor descends. As more spectators arrive, the balance towards fair recognition moves but only slightly.

Which brings me into my first ‘age’ point – looking around today I would suggest that the average age of spectators is in the region of 70-plus which makes me feel quite good but it is predominantly white, male and middle-class – I suppose the four day game has, over recent years especially, become the summer refuge for the retired!

However there’s a glimmer of hope – today has been one of the county’s ‘school days’ – primary school children and a few secondary school ones too, come to the ground, experience the match, have a tour of the ground (even dare I say go in the cricket school), have the opportunity to play on the outfield and be back at school in time for the end of the school day. Enthusiasm abounded and it was good to see as behaviour was good if noisy for the old folk!

But I think Essex missed a trick or two…they were only allowed on certain parts of the outfield at lunch (most had left by tea), the field was empty of children half way through the lunch break and what a difference a few autographs from a few players would make! This may have happened behind the scenes but I think not. In Australia and elsewhere this would have had a much higher profile! And we wonder why children aren’t interested in cricket or sports, don’t play outside and prefer their games machines?

The third age aspect is that of the Essex team – ten Doeschate is serving a two match ban, Foster…? So this gives Westley a chance to captain (and it’s clear he’s learning as he goes) and for the youngsters to make their mark. There’s a lot of youth (relative) in this Essex squad who if they fulfil their potential then more honours should come their way. I reckon the squad is as good as any across the country perhaps only outdone by Surrey? The risk is that the frustration of youth may encourage some to seek their fortunes elsewhere?,

By tea Notts had progressed as had Taylor to his century and with Billy Root, who contributed 32, put on a stand of 123 (doubled the score) when Billy fell just after tea. The Essex bowling seemed off colour this afternoon and Wagner forgot his lines especially when confronted with a mix of left and right handers. Harmer restored a little balance but it’s clear that both sides need time to readjust to the long game.

The pitch had some inconsistent bounce early on if you pitched it correctly but as the sun shone, it got better and better for batting. I was thinking three days would be enough for a result here but seems that four may not be long enough!

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Root and Taylor planning their next move…whilst Westley just wonders!
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One of those days when chances are missed

By late afternoon Notts had reached 257/4 when Wessels fell to an Harmer lbw but there seem to be fewer and fewer (or is it less and less) demons in this pitch. It will be interesting to see how Essex and Cook (back in the county fold) venture on this pitch…by the fourth innings it could be ‘fun’!

Whilst it was not a problem in terms of numbers today, at least 20% of the ground seating was blocked off due to the position of the pitch on the square or the TV gantries etc already in place for the T20 some two weeks away! It’s not a problem in terms of getting a seat etc but all of the area is usually allocated to members and so we were crammed in a bit more than usual and, I’m not sure if it’s me, but the seats seem to be especially uncomfortable this year. The ground is crying out for redevelopment (and has been for the past 10 years at least) so when it is redeveloped, put some proper sight screens in as well as better gantries etc for the TV crews!

And whatever age you are, you can’t but be fascinated to know how the following overheard conversations finished…so with apologies to any of my readers who unbeknownst to me took part in these conversations:

  • “Shall we go to Tracy’s nuptials or not? And if not, what excuse can we make?”
  • “Will someone please shut the Hayes Close dog in? It’s barking is…”
  • “What do you reckon to this speech to the Cricket Society ‘do’ ?”

Tomorrow’s blog may be shorter or even non-existent as I make my first preparations for my trip to Sri Lanka for the November tests – the first set of injections! I wonder where they’ll put the needle…?

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“Close but no cigar!”

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