Paul Edwards witnesses a day of mixed weather and mixed fortunes for Lancashire at Trent Bridge
Test Match grounds in England rarely close: they cannot afford to. Chased from my billet by tepid coffee and beige bacon, I arrived at Trent Bridge ten minutes ago, only to find the restaurant behind the press box thronged with young cricketers. A floor below, reception is already staffed as Nottinghamshire CCC prepares for another day of business.
The groundstaff are getting ready too. Yesterday's wicket is being repaired and the practice nets are being put up. A heavy roller is being used on a pitch which will be needed later in the season. The players are nowhere to be seen, but on the bowlers' run-ups Darren Pattinson's footmarks can clearly be made out, echoes of a day's cricket which no amount of video tape will ever truly recapture.
The weather is Canterbury-glorious and the outfield is so rich, a green page on which today's action will be momentarily printed in a few hours' time. For all the futuristic stands and the frying-pan floodlights, this is still a place where Harold Larwood bowled, and where, in 1938, Stan McCabe made 232 against England, an innings so fine that Bradman summoned his players out onto the dressing-room balcony to watch it. Not to be aware of these things is to miss so much. The nets are nearly put up now; the players will arrive soon.
And when play did get under way, the sun had disappeared and been replaced by cloud cover. There was no wind either, so the swing bowlers had a fine time of it in the humid conditions. Andre Adams picked up three wickets and Ryan Sidebottom, one as Lancashire lost four wickets in 14 balls. Glen Chapple's side had the runs on the board, though, so the atmosphere was febrile when Nottinghamshire began to bat, all the more so after a wicket had fallen to the sixth ball of the innings.
"How many wickets will Nottinghamshire have lost by lunch?" someone asked. "In which innings?" was one reply. Well, it didn't turn out as badly as that for the home side but, as I write, it is mid-afternoon and Notts are 122 for four in their second innings. Like the final morning at Canterbury, this is the sort of session that decides championships. The atmosphere remains heavy and rain is approaching from the south. As yesterday, it is raining in Belper.
No news on finding the Cardus's "lotus land" quotation incidentally, and it's annoying me a little now - insofar as one an be annoyed at a place like this. I suppose that's a consequence of having the internet available: we expect that any enquiry can be answered in a few moments. This one may take a bit of burrowing to sort out. In any case, I'll ask a few people down at Lord's tomorrow and report back.
The rain looks to have settled in. The spectators scuttle under cover and look small indeed against the vast white stands of a ground which can hold over 15,000. For the briefest of moments they remind me of Lowry's figures in his painting Snow in Manchester.
One final thought though: Cardus also described Trent Bridge as "fit for heaven itself". On the evidence of the last two days, I rather think it still is.
Trent Bridge is more deserted than it was when I arrived nearly ten hours ago. The press box is busier, as my colleagues and I file our copy, and there are covers over the whole of the square. The forecast is poor for tonight and the rain can clearly be seen now, teeming down against the blank blackness of the electric scoreboard.