Why do we? Why do we pay to sit outside in weather such as this is to watch cricket? A cold biting wind seemingly direct from the Urals sweeps across the Cloud FM County Ground Chelmsford lowering the temperature under grey skies and occasional showers…I’ve been warmer outside last winter but then I suppose to watch cricket you need to be slightly mad in the first place.
Despite having paid for my membership and being let in last week, my membership card no longer works so I have to go and see ‘IT’ who have little idea as to the cause but it gives me the chance to question those in the know why the PA guy only interviewed the Essex captain today and last time at the toss. The answer it seems is that he only interviews the toss winner but I did explain that there were two teams and two captains so why the one-eyed approach? No response!
One hour in and Essex batting after winning the toss are 82/2 off 15; Westley and Lawrence just into double figures. The aerial approach still seems to be Essex’s favoured option and not always working. These two tend to nurdle and nudge.
Cook (Sir A) is one of the two to fall – nibbling outside his off stump (again) – one of the great heroes of recent English cricket, showing his imperfections (still). I suppose it’s being picky but we tend to think of our heroes as perfect. I had the opportunity to see David Gower live as a cricketer and also last week at his one man show (worth going if you don’t have much recollection of him or 1980s/90s cricket) but what was disappointing was that he revealed all the imperfections of the time – Chris Cowdrey chosen for England as he’s Gowers best mate, retelling the details of the Indian tour disrupted by violence and terrorism only to make light of it (in his own way) to end with a story about how Phil Edmunds would only get on the tour bus if he sat next to Gatting as a human shield! Amusing each in their own way, but I expected my heroes to be less imperfect!
The cold wind gets colder and stronger then the sun peaks through, the wind drops and it’s almost pleasant. How players and some supporters manage with just short sleeved shirts amazes me!
One of my fellow travellers to Sri Lanka last winter asked me in one of the many conversations about cricket, why were the crowd at the CloudFM County Ground (and he insisted on calling it its official and long winded title) so one-eyed. Over all these years I hadn’t noticed it to any degree but looking back and looking now, he is so right! Anything by Essex is applauded as if it’s the second coming, anything by the opposition is largely ignored or at best grudgingly acknowledged; whereas at other grounds this is not the case.
But fear not…there’s other news! Essex have a new look scoreboard! It’s akin to what we can expect when the Hundred arrives…next to no relevant information other than scoring and economy rates. No extras, no overs bowled by fielding side, no fall of last wicket, no details of last batsman and so forth! Next to useless if you’re trying to judge the strategy or anything else come to that.
The even more good news is that the menu for lunch has been read out over the PA, the towels in the toilets have run out, the water doesn’t work but there’s loads of entertainment here today – a falconry stand, a make up booth and kids cricket- all looking underwhelmingly used!
And then of course there’s the free Wi-fi – carrier pigeon could be quicker!
The hero that used to be the County Ground at Chelmsford has so many imperfections and infallibilities!
Hour two sees Essex progress to 155/4 off 31 Bopara and ten Doeschate trying to build a good score – which should be around 300 but Essex may fall short. Westley went earlier for a good looking 48 trying to push the score on. When the sun comes out and you’re in a sheltered position it’s very pleasant but those times and those places are few and far between and so different from this time last week,
Essex end on 341/6 off 50 with Ravi having gone for 89 but Ryan ten Doeschate is run out for to 89 to give Essex a better score than looked likely at one stage. Hampshire are the team in the group to beat (as well as Somerset) so we shall see. With Essex scoring over 300, everyone here is entitled to 40% off any Taco Bell order between now and 10pm tomorrow- oh the gastronomic delights of Chelmsford!
And one modern day hero with more than imperfections – Alex Hales or Alex the Grate as one headline has it; the lack of a wider view from the ECB just underlines their imperfections but then most of us cricket followers regard them as…
Hampshire lose early wickets to be 65/3 off 15 after an hour. Tight bowling by Essex – I would extol the virtues of individual bowlers but that data is missing from the new format scoreboard other than Coles who at present has 2/20 off four overs. Allsop, Northeast and Markram are back in the hutch. Hampshire seem to have become South Africa by the sea with Rossouw, Markram, Wheal and Abbott all playing. Duckworth-Lewis-Steyn now indicate 136 as par but fortunately the rain looks like staying away even if the blast from the Urals isn’t! I don’t know where this wind I coming from but I know where it’s going to!
After two hours Hampshire reach 162/5 off 29 Rossouw 66no Berg 20. Walter bowling at last as the Essex side is replete with bowlers so sharing around the fifth role should be simple, but the new scoreboard format doesn’t show anyone how many overs each bowler has bowled so unless the captain has this all in his head or asks the umpires then he’s all at sea, just like the spectators.
The scoreboard does show the full scorecard from time to time but even close by you need 20/20 vision to read it, so it’s basically useless. Did anyone ask anyone else what they wanted to needed to see in a scoreboard? Clearly not!
So at this juncture, Hampshire seem off the pace – batsmen make some kind of start but then fall. The 150+ partnership Essex put on should be match winning as Hampshire seem unable to start to match it, let alone compete.
But Hampshire fold…not necessarily collapse…but are all out for 230 in next to no time and Essex win by 111. Overall this shouldn’t do much to the table of the South Division as the other key team – Somerset – also lose. To my mind, any three of Somerset, Hampshire, Sussex or Middlesex should progress to the knock out phase but we shall see, life is full of imperfections!