Paul Edwards enjoys a summer's day of cricket in Nottingham
First Day of Four: Row G Seat 81 (nearly)
Less than 72 hours ago we were in Leeds. Yesterday it was Edgbaston. On Friday we will be at the Riverside and in a week's time we return home to Liverpool, having squeezed in another twenty-over match, in Nottingham, on Sunday.
While the life of the 21st century professional cricketer may be envied by thousands of club players up and down the country, it is hardly conducive to a settled routine. The widget-maker's world is less glamorous, but at least he sleeps in his own bed most nights of the year. A county cricketer could be forgiven if he threw back his hotel curtains early on a summer morning and murmured: "If it's Tuesday, I must be.......somewhere."
All of which makes the comparative fixity of a four-day game all the more appealing. Given a decent wicket and a reasonable level of competence on the part of the batsmen, we know that we will all be here on Thursday. At the most mundane level this allows us to unpack our bags; more interestingly, we can fit in a bit of exploration. Following a literary trail is one method of getting to know any area: Nottingham, for example, has strong connections with D H Lawrence and perhaps even stronger ones with both Alan Sillitoe (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) and the rather lesser-known novelist B. S. Johnson (The Unfortunates), who also worked as a sports reporter covering this city's football teams.
It is now about an hour before the close of play and I have just been following a very small literary trail of my own. Specifically, I have been attempting to get to Row G Seat 81 high at the Radcliffe Road from where Duncan Hamilton watched the cricket in the summer of 2009 (see yesterday's article for a more detailed reference). The area containing the seat itself was roped off, but it was deliciously easy to understand exactly what Hamilton loved about his summer's day at Trent Bridge.
The stands were packed with spectators, all of them eager to watch the cricket from behind the bowler's arm; they talked, not to fill the space made by the silence, but to exchange considered thoughts, born out of careful observation of the game; the applause for Paul Franks and Chris Read's fifties was warm but completely lacking the forced, frenzied joy which accompanies boundaries in twenty-over games. Give any of these cricket lovers cards with "6" or "4" printed on them and they'd think of a practical use for them, not wave them around in momentary delight. I wonder if professional cricketers know how much pleasure they give to these people on afternoons such as this.
About 75 yards behind us the rush hour traffic droned home. If you listened very carefully, it was just possible to hear it. In the reality of Nottingham's "lotus land", of course, it was miles away.
And now, on the screen above me, West Indies are playing India in a Test match; elsewhere, Wimbledon has begun and football transfers are announced. But I watch Paul Horton defending Luke Fletcher's final over of the day, and the cricketers' shadows are long upon the grass.
Photo (c) John Walton/EMPICS Sport
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