Paul Edwards basks in his cricketing roots
I really can't complain about my journey to the cricket this week. I shut my front door, walk for about six minutes, and there I am, unmolested by the tender mercies of Northern Rail, standing in the car park of the club I joined some 30 summers ago. I've seen it as a player, as an administrator, as a scorer, as a journalist, and, of course, as a spectator. I watched my first cricket here somewhere around the mid-sixties and I certainly saw the Indian tourists play here in 1967. Arriving on the first day of the return of first-class cricket to the old place was, well, just a little moving.
Even at 7.30 on that opening morning there was a clutch of club and county officials on the ground, some of them preparing to take the covers off the wicket on which so much attention has been lavished over the last ten months. Please do not underestimate the work that a club's volunteers put in to ensure that a place like Trafalgar Road looks its best on occasions such as this; at Guildford over a week ago, at Southport today, and at Liverpool all summer long, one is impressed by the way in which a club ground can be transformed into a venue capable of hosting first-class cricket. Liverpool, as I have pointed out before, is somewhere between a club ground and an HQ, but the point still holds.
Twenty-four hours before Southport's game began, I had been sitting in the Lord's press box, waiting for the latest action in a summer which a friend of mine is already comparing to 2005. While it was plain to see the differences between a major Test match at the home of cricket and a county game on an outground, noticing the similarities was rather more fun.
For example, you wait six years to see people queueing up to get into a cricket match and then it happens twice in just over 24 hours. Yes, there were something like 20,000 more paying spectators at the Test, but it's still encouraging to see supporters keen to watch the longer formats of the game. Both locations also possess a leafy affluence too, a fact noticed in his inimitable fashion by my colleague Graham Hardcastle on Tuesday morning.
"You can tell this is a wealthy area," he said confidently. "Just look at the state of the dogs." While I'm now pondering the condition of the canine population in Britain's less well-heeled neighbourhoods, it remains the case that Birkdale is a suburb in which many of Merseyside's various elites live, breathe and drive their Bentleys. Selworthy and Sandringham Roads are renowned as two of the best residential addresses in England, never mind Lancashire. The only thing shameless about Birkdale is the prosperity; we are a long way from the Chatsworth estate here.
After two days in which the weather has been better than Southport and Birkdale officials could have hoped for, Lancashire face an almighty battle to beat Nottinghamshire. Attendances, 2606 on Tuesday, 2828 today, have more than justified the decision to take a game to Trafalgar Road, and again, it was heartening to see the attention which the crowd paid to the cricket. Despite the efforts of Graeme White to boost the already hefty insurance premiums on Harrod Drive, this was a game far removed from Twenty20, yet the place was near as dammit full and people watched the cricket closely, trying to understand every nuance of the most complex game in the world. Unless weather intervenes, tomorrow will be the last day of the match; you can call me biased as much as you like, but I think it's been one of the highlights of this richest of summers.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh