Worthy Opponents and Magnificent Sevens
Paul Edwards at the Liverpool Roses match.
Let me begin today's tale with an admission. No, it is not that I was the hardy streaker who risked hypothermia by scampering across the Aigburth outfield on Friday evening. (Regarding that matter, I should point out that if I have spoken to Malcolm Lorimer about his behaviour once, I have done so a hundred times. His bohemian ways might not ruffle any feathers in Nantwich's Latin quarter, but they're not the sort of things we're used to up here.)
No, my admission is that I like Yorkshire cricket very much indeed. I admire its toughness and the way players from across the Pennines rarely give anything less than their very best. It is these qualities which help to explain the special challenge of a Roses match, and over the last four days they have been exemplified by Joe Sayers, who batted 14 minutes short of eight hours for his 126 runs, efforts which may yet - I am writing this an hour after lunch on Saturday - mean that his side will leave Liverpool with a hard-fought draw under their belts. Incidentally, anyone wishing to know more about Yorkshire cricket during one of its great decades could do no better than read Magnificent Seven: Yorkshire's Dominance of Cricket in the 1960s by my colleague Andrew Collomosse. The chapter on Geoff Cope alone is worth the price of the book.
The deep mutual respect between the majority of the players is one of the reasons why Roses matches are so special. Think, for example, of the close friendship between Brian Statham and Fred Trueman: sworn opponents on the field, good mates when the game was over.
Indeed, cricket is one of sports in which rivalry is kept in proportion and does not stray into hatred. Even Ashes Tests, thankfully, do not come close to offering an exhibition of the visceral emotions displayed in football matches in Manchester, Liverpool and, most atrociously of all, Glasgow. Perhaps I am unusual in this regard, but no one has yet been able to explain to me why a liking for one sports team should entail a loathing for another. Local rivalry - and bragging rights if you must - are all very well, but as I once heard someone say: "I quite like to see Manchester City win football matches. Why should this mean I want Manchester United to lose games - apart from the derbies of course ?" It is a fair question.
But let us return to the cricket. Adil Rashid and Gary Ballance have just reached their fifties - it is Ballance's first in the County Championship - only for Rashid to be stumped by Gareth Cross off Steven Croft. Four more young men will thus have reason to remember Aigburth's Roses match with some pleasure.
So will those demons of the betting shop, Stan the Steward and Graham Hardcastle. Some of you may recall that this duo combined to fleece the bookies when Ballabriggs romped home in the Grand National. Well, they have struck again, courtesy of Sagramor in the 2.30 at Haydock Park. One question remains though: if Stan the Steward is so infallible in matters of the turf, how come he is still a steward? Perhaps he just enjoys his cricket, or maybe, like Bernardo O'Reilly in The Magnificent Seven, he is an eccentric millionaire.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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