Yesterday Paul Edwards considered earth. Today it's water.
On my second day covering Lancashire I arrived to find Old Trafford's outfield looking like a scale model of the Lake District. Since then, by contrast, there have been many more days when I have turned up at grounds knowing that there was a full day's play in prospect.Today was bidding fair to be a complete washout until the rain relented at around 10.30 and the cricketers picked the weather's pocket of 21 overs. Now it is 3.20pm and the puddles on the covers grow larger with every minute. We won't get back on today.
"Do you ever wish for rain?" John Arlott was asked on Desert Island Discs. "No," he replied. "A cricket ground in the rain is a contradiction in terms." Well, without wishing to insult the mind that has nourished me in so many ways, I disagree. A cricket ground in the rain is, like a ski jump in summer or a golf course in the snow, simply a different type of place. Stranger, bleaker, and more inimical to our taste, perhaps, but no less a place for all that.
So what do people do when it rains? I remember writing a piece about this when the third day of the 2009 Edgbaston Test against Australia was lost, although that considered a ground filled with about 20,000 people. What about a place containing barely a hundredth of that number?
In the Trent Bridge library Peter Wynne-Thomas is carefully transcribing a scorebook from 1922, but then he would be doing that anyway. Peter generally starts watching his cricket after the tea interval. Until then there is the careful business of scholarship to attend to. In Nottinghamshire's gym some of the Lancashire players are going through a series of exercises. There is also the serious business of fitness to attend to.
And I think people might be surprised at the amount of work that takes place in the press box during a long rain break. Even in a day in which three wickets fall for the addition of 69 runs, most national papers will want 80-100 words for the paper and 300-400 for the web. Then there are previews to write, other pieces to start on and all the jobs we've left until we get a spare moment. I still think, as I wrote elsewhere, that being a cricket writer is the "life of Reilly" but I do not believe that it is easy on that account.
As we worked we noticed that other grounds had succumbed to the weather. Colwyn Bay...Horsham...Tunbridge Wells...the festivals were the first to go, the less well-defended outposts of the game. Then it was the turn of Grace Road, and eventually Trent Bridge and Lord's, the mighty garrisons.
What one notices now is the stillness. Big cities are places almost without rest. Outside this ground - it is now nearly 5.20 - people are making deals, having a drink, buying stuff, going home. There is noise, movement, bustle. Is there any major structure in Nottingham which is supposed to be busy, but which is as silent and still as Trent Bridge this wet Thursday evening?
Ropes have been attached to weights on the covers to prevent them blowing away in the winds of the night. They tauten and loosen in the breeze. Atop the pavilion Lancashire's Championship pennant and Nottinghamshire's flag are also disturbed, but flutter is too strong a word for their gentle movement. That apart, there is only the unnatural calm of a theatre without actors or audience. Trent Bridge is a ground in its own space, captured in a moment of summer under a weeping sky.
*Editor's note: Paul's article was due to appear yesterday (Thursday), but a few problems at our end meant it only appeared today (Friday). Just in case you thought Paul had got his days mixed up!
Photo (c) Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd