This is Lancashire's first visit to Guildford at any senior level
As best as I have been able to discover on the internet, neither the county's first nor second team has ever played at Woodbridge Road in a one-, three- or four-day fixture. There may have been junior games, but I rather doubt it.
Indeed, Lancashire are the last of the 18 first-class counties to play in this corner of Surrey; and this may be accounted a misfortune now happily corrected, because for all that it is surrounded by arterial transport links - a railway line runs nearly as close to the ground as it does at Bull Hey, Wigan's home - this is plainly a venue worthy of hosting first-class cricket and has done so in all but three peacetime years since 1938.
Hampshire and Sussex have been the most frequent visitors, playing 17 and 14 Championship games respectively. Such statistics are a reminder of the regionalism that once determined the programme: a large crowd was likely to be attracted by the neighbours and local rivals always played each other twice in the years before fixtures were standardised. All the same, it came as something of a surprise to discover that Durham had played here before Lancashire.
There are plans for a booklet to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Guildford Festival in 2013. A similar publication was produced to mark its 50th year in 1988 and, indeed, this has been a rather bookish match: John McKenzie, the doyen of cricket booksellers and kind guardian of an alarming proportion of my money, was on the ground yesterday; the eminent cricket historian, past Guildford CC president and trenchant exploder of myths David Frith has been present on both days; and this lunchtime Stephen Chalke launched his book. "Micky Stewart and the changing face of cricket", about which I will write more tomorrow or Saturday. For the moment, let me record that among the other Surrey cricketers clustered in the marquee were Alec Stewart and John Edrich.
Mention of that last name disturbs memories of the Saturday evening of July 10th 1976 when I sat, stunned and exhilarated, in the top deck of the Old Trafford pavilion as Edrich and Brian Close faced the fearsome West Indian artillery: Roberts, Holding and Daniel inflicting an apocalypse that required only three horsemen, for who remembers that a spinner, Albert Padmore, played in that game? The slide show of memory continues as the rain falls at Guildford: Tony Greig, bowled by Holding on Monday afternoon, his stump somersaulting like a gymnast at the climax of a floor exercise. That was a brutal game of cricket. Edrich faced Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in 1974-5 too. He was a brave, unflinching batsman.
The rain patters heavily on the roof of the press tent. This has been a good match for Lancashire and also for Guildford. The wicket may be a little slow but it has rewarded diligent batsmen who apply themselves and disciplined bowlers who keep a tight line.
There have been lighter moments too. The Guildford Festival is dependent on the financial support of the local borough council and it has attracted the great and the good from the surrounding area. Maybe the great and the bad too, but I wouldn't know. This lunchtime a worthy gent wearing a jacket and tie and a mighty chain around his neck entered the press tent. George Dobell of Cricinfo looked up from his work: "You're either a mayor or a rapper," he said.
We won't get back on now. The rain sweetened the air but it has now dispersed the crowd. There are no cloud formations of much note, only a uniform grey sky. Lancashire fans must settle for memories of Croft and Chapple's counter-attack and hope for drier weather tomorrow. Two blazered aldermen make their way across the outfield; their multicoloured umbrella bobs away into the distance.
Photo (c) EMPICS
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd