Paul Edwards beams in his 601 words from Trent Bridge
At around four o'clock on each day of a County Championship match my colleagues and I ring our respective newspapers and ask about space.
We are not interested in the state of the cosmos; what we are talking about is how many words we are required to write about the game we are covering.
The answers vary: if Steven Gerrard's partner has changed her hairdresser, a paper might be publishing an eight-page supplement and space will be limited; if, on the other hand, the world is about to be engulfed in a nuclear catastrophe, cricket writers may be a little more fortunate.
"100 words for the paper and 400 for the website," is a fairly frequent response these days, when cyberspace often gives a warmer welcome to the non-football writer than newsprint. Occasionally the quality dailies are more generous, but even if we were all given 900 words to cover a day's cricket, we could still only give a flavour of a session as rich and subtle as that played out on this second morning at Trent Bridge.
We all knew that it would be a crucial hour or two, not least Mark Chilton. "I don't reckon it's a flat wicket, so I do think we'll have to work hard for the first 30 or 35 overs of the innings." said Lancashire's stand-in captain on Monday evening. "We have to get stuck in with the bat and see how tomorrow goes. There's a little bit happening off the pitch, especially with the new ball."
And so we were not surprised that the first hour's play at Trent Bridge offered a complex and deeply satisfying series of delights for the observant spectator as Lancashire's batsmen sought to establish a firm foundation for their side's reply to Nottinghamshire's 326.
On a wicket which did, indeed, give plenty of help to the new ball bowlers, Paul Horton and Stephen Moore deployed contrasting techniques: Horton was rather the more defensive of the two and relied on his trademark deflections and tucks off the hip; Moore trusted his attacking instincts, hitting Andre Adams for three consecutive boundaries in the 15th over, only one of which really came out of the middle of the bat. In 18 overs the pair took the score from 7 for no wicket to 51 without loss.
Yet, as so often with cricket, the statistics by which the game is assessed tell only half the story of the contest. Every ball of that first hour could be seen as a tiny victory for either Nottinghamshire or Lancashire. Even letting a delivery go - a neglected art, which Alan Knott used to practice - meant that the newish ball would be that much older when it got back to the bowler, who was himself just a little more tired as a consequence of the effort he had expended.
Those 18 overs comprised 108 such minuscule skirmishes, each of them playing its part in the much larger four-day battle at Trent Bridge.
Writers on county cricket are comsummate miniaturists, often because they have to be. They can take six hours' cricket, write 250 words about it and give an exact sense of the day which readers will remember long after they have forgotten the result of the match. I'm thinking now of journalists like David Foot, Matthew Engel and, though he is sitting just ten feet away from me, Neville Scott.
But what none of us can do is chronicle the intricate gradualism of a tense session. To fully understand that - to paraphrase the incompetent anecdotalist - you have to be there.
Photo (c) John Walton/EMPICS Sport
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