Paul Edwards is charmed by the environs of Trent Bridge during the opening day of Lancashire's match against Nottinghamshire
Any cricket writer with Lancastrian affiliations who watches his county play Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge is almost bound to recall Neville Cardus's description of the ground as a "lotus land for batsmen".
Well, even the great romantic would have been hard pressed to justify that description this morning. The pitch looked green and kept low, there was plenty of cloud cover, the wind gusted, and even the short boundary on the Bridgford Road side did little to encourage Lancashire supporters that a big total was in the offing. Only if we had seen sports cars in the players' parking spaces might we have described the place as any sort of lotus land.
Yet Glen Chapple's batsmen did indeed prosper, even threatening at one time to fufil half of Cardus's poetic sentiment that at Trent Bridge it is always high summer and the score is 360 for two. The wicket played far better than it looked, Nottinghamshire's new ball attack of Sidebottom and Pattinson was wayward and four batsmen eventually scored fifties.
By lunch, Lancashire had reached 118 for one and had weathered what might have been a wicket-strewn first session. Thus, it was with a light heart that I set off on an exploration of the ground and, inevitably perhaps, followed the signs pointing to the library. Left, right, down a passage, push open the door, and there was Peter Wynne-Thomas, Nottinghamshire's librarian, sitting at a large table and facing a group of readers who, when not doing their own research, hung on his every word. "When was the MCC founded?" asked one. "Well, we don't know, do we?" replied Wynne-Thomas, before launching into an explanation of exactly why we don't know. "Now look at this score," petitioned another, a 1934 Wisden in his hand. "Yes, most interesting," replied the quintessentially courteous historian. It was for all the world like a post-graduate seminar at Oxford, except that the students at Trent Bridge were just slightly better dressed.
I asked Nottinghamshire's sage about the source of the Cardus "lotus land" quotation. He wasn't sure; I returned in the tea interval to find him delving among Cardus's essays but without success. The briefest of enquiries from a writer he had only just met had prompted Wynne-Thomas to make the most diligent of searches. We'll look again tomorrow. This is a lovely club, welcoming and warm.
As for Trent Bridge, it seems to me that it is currently by far the best Test ground in England outside Lord's. Now the cynic might point out that it mainly has building sites to beat, while the Nottinghamshire loyalists will pine for the old stands which have been pulled down, as, to a degree, does Duncan Hamilton in his excellent book The Last English Summer. Yet the new stands do not detract from the beauty of the great old Trent Bridge pavilion which, for all the daring curves of the new architecture, is still the main focus of the ground. By the close, Lancashire had reached 303 for six. There had been talk of torrential rain in Caythorpe and thunderstorms in Belper, but we had been off the field for scarcely 40 minutes. Trent Bridge, you see, is a lotus land after all.
Photo: PA Images