Forget the cricket – Just toss the coin!
From nearly forty years ago, when I was forced to work there by an unscrupulous and uncaring employer, I have harboured a secret dread of the place. Exiled to the Fylde Coast as a wide-eyed young bank cashier, I spent three summers bagging coin for the pub customers to use in their fruit machines and whilst learning next to nothing, ended up with muscles like Popeye.
Although horrible memories fade with age I still remember the strong room door that would only open & shut when the tide was out, the safety deposit boxes full of £20 notes that the taxman would just love to have found, and sharing a HMO bedsit with a benefit funded drug addict and an alcoholic, nymphomaniac woman who had just been drummed out of the army. I learned more about life than banking in those days, I can tell you.
Best of all was Scots fortnight, when in July most of Glasgow arrived accompanied by their own police force to ensure order and identify the troublemakers. The morning walk to work along the promenade regularly included watching the police fishing unconscious bodies from the other side of the sea wall.
Thus it was with heavy heart that I realised Lancashire’s make or break Royal London tie with Derbyshire would he held at Blackpool CC. Travel I did, and I was delighted when at Preston a hen party of Scottish ladies joined my train and plonked themselves and their luggage around my seat. I waited for the carry -‘oots to appear and the familiar fizz of the Tennents Super Lager ring-pulls, but to my surprise this did not occur and we ended up instead discussing politics, and more particularly, Scottish Independence. Like myself, the ladies were firmly in favour of this concept, and I showed them a picture of Nicola Sturgeon and her mother that I had received the previous evening on the basis that Mrs Sturgeon senior bore a remarkable resemblance to an English musical superstar. If you don’t get it once having looked at the photo, try whistling ‘Candle in the wind’. The girls seemed to be delighted, and I feel I may have furthered the cause of Independence greatly during the thirty minutes it took the train to arrive at Blackpool North.
After what was in all a three hour journey I arrived at Stanley Park during the ninth over, just in time to see the covers being rushed on. The weather was abysmal, and as Lancashire had won the toss with bad weather imminent they had asked Derbyshire to bat.
A stall behind our stand was offering very reasonably priced coffee and it was possible for a small additional fee to top this up with a sweet syrup called ‘Monin.’ With a name like that, I can only assume this syrup had been specially bought in for the visiting Lancashire Members.
The head steward told me they had been warned to anticipate an attendance of 4000 plus, but there were barely 1500 in the ground, mainly huddled under umbrellas given the lack of covered stands.
During the first rain delay I journeyed to the clubhouse for a beer, and on proffering a ten pound note, was given change for a fiver. Nothing has changed much in Blackpool during the thirty years since my last visit, then.
Eventually the players reappeared and as soon as they did, the drizzle started once again.
To be fair to umpires Garratt and O’Shaughnessy they seemed up for a game and they allowed play to continue in the rain with Derbyshire reaching 132-2 and seemingly set for a big score. The ball had already disappeared out of the ground a couple of times courtesy of a fine knock by Ben Slater. In the 22nd over however the rain got too much and off the players went. I am not noted for my patience as regards sitting waiting in the rain, and with the weather closing in, the rain getting heavier and no breaks in the cloud evident, along with many of the crowd I decided to call it a day and headed for the station – at least I would get home to the other end of the county at a respectable time.
Amazingly when my train reached Preston the skies had cleared and by the time we reached Manchester the sun was cracking the flags- and I was cursing the decision not to hold this game at Old Trafford.
Little did I know, at about 6pm the decision was made to restart play at Blackpool, virtually in the form of a T20 game. The Lancashire target – 161 from 18 overs. Even though this target was grossly inflated by ‘Duckworth Lewis’, on an outground with small boundaries it should have been easily achievable and this eventually proved to be the case, although Lancashire almost made a hash of it.
This game has illustrated to me the dangers of playing important qualification games at small outgrounds, where there is little or no shelter and capacity to clear up after weather delays must always be somewhat limited. A totally predictable result, and totally unfair to poor Derbyshire, who now seem unlikely to be able to progress in this competition because of this stitch up.
In terms of trips to Blackpool then, not a success. Had I known this game would end up in a sub T20 format there is no way that I would have travelled so far.
I must confess however that my journey home was made much more interesting by the presence of political hard man John Mc Donald, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, on the seat behind me. He seemed very interested in my manifesto suggestion to nationalise the ECB and make the supply of free beer compulsory at all cricket matches. However, also asking for a complete overhaul of the Duckworth Lewis system supervised by Diane Abbott was probably a little over ambitious!