Remember the "Lotus land"? It was Neville Cardus's evocative description of Trent Bridge in his book Days in the Sun. I recall writing about it in one of last year's tales. The specific location of the quotation was identified for me by the Lancashire scorer Alan West, who is currently recording his first County Championship game since recovering from serious illness.
This morning I was reminded of the words of the great man (Cardus, not West, although either would work). My memory was jogged when I received a letter from my reader. He tells me that his new secure hospital is very pleasant, but after that appalling incident with the guinea-pig, he is no longer allowed sharp implements. He also asked me about Trent Bridge and wondered whether the place is still as Cardus described it.
Well, I replied, it is as replete with delights as ever, but it is different. The ground is the best in England outside Lord's, but no longer is the pitch "perfect" or the turf "guileless" as Sir Neville described them. Cardus, you may recall, wrote of the county's headquarters as "a lotus land for batsmen, where it was always afternoon and 360 for 2 wickets". In its heyday, he continued, "Nottinghamshire cricket was fit for heaven and eternity. You could admire it like unflawed marble, but being human, you could not live with it for long."
On the evidence of this match at least, things have changed. So, at the risk of Malcolm Lorimer and his satraps beating me to death with copies of the book of Isaiah, I have had the gross temerity to rephrase Cardus as follows:
Trent Bridge is a hostile land for batsmen, where it is often 81 for 7 and the ball disappears up the batsman's nostrils at an alarming velocity. Nottinghamshire wickets are suited to seamers and batsmen who trust their luck. You should fear it if you plunge forward, and being human, you cannot survive on it for long."
But there again, my callow expectations - and perhaps those of a few Lancashire cricketers - were confounded. For the second time in three days Andre Adams took his broadsword to Mark Chilton's attack while Paul Franks collected his sixth score above 40 in his last seven innings against the Red Rose. Both batsmen made fifties and the pair shared a partnership of 119 for the eighth wicket. By the close of play Lancashire needed another 205 to win with all their wickets in hand. Tomorrow, to employ a much over-used term, may indeed be pivotal in deciding the destiny of the 2011 County Championship. There, I've said it.
It seemed unwise to expect too much of Wednesay, though. For example, last week I was standing with my colleague Graham Hardcastle in Tasty, a sandwich shop a few minutes walk from Headingley. "I've got tickets for the Olympics," he announced proudly, after studying his mobile phone. Today, as some of you may know, successful applicants were told for what events they had got tickets. "Artistic gymnastics," announced Hardcastle this morning. I may have misread the signs here but I'm not sure he was in transports of delight at the news.
And so we go into the final day of a week which has been nigh on perfect. The only cloud in view is that Lancashire's cricketers just may have to follow the example of Seneca the Younger and adopt a rather stoical outlook on life in 24 hours' time. But there I go again....expecting the worst.
Photo (c) John Walton/EMPICS Sport
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