Paul Edwards signs off from the Rose Bowl as Lancashire's game with Hampshire ends in a draw
The more one watches cricket at the Rose Bowl, the more one appreciates the place. The view helps, of course: sitting on the top deck of the pavilion, one can see the rich, green-quilted landscape stretching away to the north east.
Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove told my excellent colleague Ivo Tennant that one can see a third of the county from the pavilion's highest vantage point, but that strikes a vaguely imperial tone. Surely, it's quality, not quantity, that counts, and the aspect of Winchester, the Meon valley and the outlines of the New Forest all help to explain why John Arlott described Hampshire as "the incomparable county". By mid-afternoon on Sunday, it was clear that this game was heading for a rather dull draw, but anyone who tells you that there was "nothing worth seeing" had probably forgotten the importance of looking, and then looking again.
The interior architecture and decoration of the Rose Bowl's pavilion is appealing too. One of the great hazards in moving from a ground like Northlands Road, which was soaked in the sweat of Hampshire's former cricketers, is that you leave the county's history behind. Your new ground is clean, huge and impressive but there's a danger that you forget your past and thereby fail to understand your present. The Rose Bowl's pavilion doesn't fall into that trap. Photographs of former teams and old players gaze out from its walls along with summaries of their achievements. There is no danger that any thoughtful visitor will miss the fact that Lionel Tennyson, Philip Mead or Derek Shackleton all performed nobly for the county. Maybe one of the reasons why the Hampshire cricketers attending Thursday's reunion clearly felt so much at home at the Rose Bowl was that the place celebrated their cricket too.
It was fairly clear by lunchtime that the match against Hampshire was going to end in a draw but that did not mean that the game was without interest or importance. For example, Tom Smith has not enjoyed his best season with the bat, so it was heartening to see him return to form with a well-constructed career-best knock of 128. Who can tell how this 401-minute innings may affect Smith's performance over the next seven weeks? Gareth Cross, too, seized his opportunity and hit his first century for Lancashire.
Games that appear tedious to some spectators can be vital in the development of young cricketers. So spare a warm thought for Michael Bates. The highly regarded Hampshire wicketkeeper, who was making his Championship debut, claimed five victims behind the stumps and let nobody down. He has been keeping wicket to the slow-left-arm bowling of Danny Briggs since they were both in Hampshire's Under-10 side. He, like Cross, will not quickly forget the game which ended at 4.55p.m this quiet Sunday afternoon in Hampshire.
I won't forget it either. The last 50 overs of this match weren't the most riveting I've ever watched, but over the past four days I've met one Hampshire wicketkeeper, Leo Harrison, who made his debut in 1939 and played 396 first-class games, and I've also seen another, Michael Bates, make just his second first-class appearance. I'm grateful to them both.
Photo: PA Photos
Previous day's features:
Talking to Leo about Jack
Blooms from the Rose Bowl