Paul Edwards bades farewell to the old press box
I am sitting in this Edgbaston press box for the last time. Lest any of my suffering readers start to organise celebratory street parties and petition the government to declare a day of public rejoicing, I should perhaps point out that this state of affairs has been caused by the imminence of the box's demise rather than my own.
When we return here for the Test match against India in August, the plush new media facilities on the far side of the ground should be available to us. Work on the last phase of Warwickshire's massive redevelopment was going on even as the players warmed up for this afternoon's Friends Life t20 game. The new complex, comprising pavilion, stands, hospitality boxes and all manner of other suites, covers almost one complete end of this stadium. And Edgbaston really is as much a stadium as a ground now; it reminds one more of Melbourne than Moseley.
I will be sorry to see this box go. Yes, it is battered and could in no sense be seen as part of a Media Centre which a well-heeled investment company might wish to sponsor - Lord's, it certainly isn't - but the place has acquired the atmosphere of a place where serious work is done. This is perhaps not so surprising when one reads the plaque outside the box: "This press accommodation was presented to Warwickshire County Cricket Club by the Hon. E Langton Iliffe and his co-directors of the Coventry Evening Telegraph," it reads, "and was first used on the occasion of the revival of Test match cricket at Edgbaston when England played the West Indies here on May 30th - June 4th 1957."
So it was from this special place, long before the advent of laptops or WiFi, that journalists sought to describe Alan Knott's wonderful hundred against Pakistan on Saturday, June 5th 1971. Accompanied by Peter Lever in a seventh-wicket partnership of 159, Knott employed all his unorthodox brilliance to hit 22 fours in his innings of 116, yet that game will be remembered even more for Zaheer Abbas's towering 274 in the tourists' first innings.
And it was from here, 23 years and a day later, that the great county cricket reporter David Foot phoned through two long pieces to his papers' copy-takers describing Brian Lara's 501 for Warwickshire against Durham. By 1994 some of Foot's colleagues were using dial-up laptops, but the connections failed as Lara approached Hanif Mohammed's record. It was left to Footy to show them how it could be done. (I wish he'd been at Headingley last Friday.)
And then there was 2005...... "Kasprowicz....Jones....Bowden!" as Richie Benaud put it, with characteristically brilliant economy. Andrew Flintoff. Brett Lee. Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee.
Some readers may already be pointing out that these matches were played on grass, not in stands, and certainly not in press-boxes. Yet where spectators watch sport from matters intensely to them. When Duncan Hamilton identified an afternoon at Trent Bridge as his favourite memory from 2009 - the season he covers in The Last English Summer - he could remember the specific place (row G seat 81) at the Radcliffe Road End where he experienced his "absolute bliss".
No doubt cricket grounds need to be redeveloped from time to time. Yet this work should be done with sensitivity and particular consideration for the memories of those for whom those places have become countries of the heart. Otherwise the need to modernise may satisfy the needs of the suits at the expense of the dreams of the supporters.
Photo: The new Edgbaston (c) Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
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