If Lancashire's players and supporters felt any residual soreness from their experiences at Edgbaston on Saturday, they could at least rely on their visit to Trent Bridge this afternoon to provide a little balm.
Nottinghamshire's home manages to combine the grandeur of a Test ground with the intimacy of a county headquarters. Take, for example, the practice of allowing supporters to wander onto the outfield during the intervals; or the photographs of England and Nottinghamshire teams and players which festoon almost all the walls of the pavilion. There are pictures of touring teams too, and, incongruously, a snap of the Gloucestershire XI in 1903. One has the impression that to leave even a square inch of space uncovered by some item of cricket memorabilia is seen as a missed opportunity in this heartland of the game.
Hung in the corridor leading to the staircase up to the dressing-rooms are Nottinghamshire's championship pennants, battle honours from noble campaigns, the last of them won at Old Trafford nearly a year ago. I wonder if Lancashire's players noticed them as they made their way through the pavilion today. Do such things taunt or tantalise? A mixture of both, probably. This county's cricketers will not be adding to their row of penants next month, whereas Lancashire's players have the chance to decorate their new facilities with the prize they crave most of all. Even in this treasured place, I think of Worcester, Liverpool, Taunton..... So, I dare to suspect, do Peter Moores and his players.
The cricket was valuable, too. Some people might have labelled this game "almost meaningless", since Lancashire had no chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and Nottinghamshire's chances of doing so depended on them beating Steven Croft's side very heavily and other results going their way. To take such a view would be to ignore the value of hard match practice ahead of Wednesday's game. As it turned out, at least three of Lancashire's players spent useful time at the crease, no one more so than Tom Smith, and Nottinghamshire's Ali Brown had the opportunity to bring down the curtain on a distinguished first-class county career in front of the supporters of a team he has served well in the autumn of his playing life. "Brown c Cross b Smith 18" reads the scorebook, its almost bland factual accuracy disguising the significance of the event. Brown was applauded warmly back to the pavilion; Nottinghamshire's supporters know their cricket.
Other less permanent autumns beckoned too. As the run scudded across the ground in the closing overs of the game - tell the drenched players their game was meaningless then - it was possible to see the incipient change of season. "The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said;" wrote Philip Larkin; and when those leaves change colour, it is like being told something else. At present, it is merely a barely heard murmur, but we know that the voice will become louder. It will soon be time to march to the beat of a different drum. Yes, we may yet get glorious summer afternoons during Lancashire's three remaining County Championship games, but the days when we look ahead and see nothing but months of county cricket stretching before us are gone for another year. I, as much as anyone, will forget this as the title is decided over the next 17 days, but it is true all the same.
And so to Worcester, with a sense of anticipation that one can almost bottle. Tomorrow we travel from one of the very best grounds in England to one of the most beautiful. And on that stage may be played out dramas which will pass into Lancashire folklore. The autumn can wait its hurry. There's still cricket in the air!
Photo (c) PA Images
Article (c) Lancashire County Cricket Club