My trip to Trent Bridge this time was preceded by a few days Covid break on the South Coast with friends Vinny and Jill. During this short holiday I managed to visit Stonehenge, which was a bucket list kind of thing, and also leave the UK mainland for a few precious hours on the Isle of Wight without the need for certification, testing, etc.
Those were the nice bits. I also got propositioned by a gay lad in KFC Brighton, must still be looking good even at my age, eh? But the worst experience by far was walking down the main street in Romsey to discover this was called….wait for it….”The Hundred!” Ugh!
During my stay down south I even managed to watch a Royal London Cup game at the Rose Bowl with Vinny between Hampshire seconds and Lancashire seconds. Sadly, this was curtailed by torrential rain with Lancashire having the game in the bag, and eventually getting the points via Duckworth Lewis.
The day before the Test Lofty arrived in his supercar to take us both up to Nottingham. We discussed the very poor weather outlook on the way-from the outset it was clear that the Nottingham Test would be ‘one of those games’.
On arrival we teamed up with Higgy for a few beers, but were also surprisingly joined by a pal of Wycombes that we had not seen since an Australian tour some years ago. This lad is called ‘Sober Nick’ for a reason, and several years working on Guernsey meant he already knew Lofty well. The session quickly degenerated into a hilarious dissection of Loftys possible involvement with the German occupation of his island. Collaboration was even discussed but in the end the worst we could come up with, given the dates, was that Lofty might have had a swastika painted on the side of his pram. Nevertheless, as you might expect, this theme was expanded and developed over the next few days. Lofty, as usual, took it all in good heart.
Next morning found Higgy and I at Long Eaton station buying tickets to travel to Nottingham and as the ticket office seemed quiet, I also started making enquiries about my homeward travel the following Monday. This seemed to annoy a grouchy old pensioner behind us, who started banging his cane on the floor as if somehow, this would speed up the process. “Getta bloody move on! We’ve got a f***ing train to catch!” Higgy thought the whole episode was quite funny given the next train out of Long Eaton wasn’t due for another twenty minutes or so. It seems patience is not a quality inherent in the pensioners of Long Eaton, as we would find out again later in the week.
So to Trent Bridge. The ground was pretty full, and the weather was set fair on day one. England won the toss and batted. As happens quite a lot these days, they made a complete cobblers of it. The hapless Burns was dismissed in the first over. Sibley stayed around without getting the scoreboard moving, and his technique at the crease reminded me of the enormous leaning sarsen stones I had seen at Stonehenge the previous week.
Sibley did manage to get to 1001 Test Runs in this innings and as the display was flashed up on the scoreboard I was reminded of the old advert from my childhood:
“1001 cleans a big, big carpet….for less than half a crown!”
Unsurprisingly, Sibley was himself cleaned up shortly afterwards, falling over to leg and plonking the ball into the hands of the fielder placed nearby for exactly that shot.
Crawley’s early promise seems to be fading. As far as I can see, he is going backwards faster than an Italian tank, and he failed again here. He made a nice looking 27, but nice looking 27’s do not Test matches win. Ask Mark Ramprakash!
Root and Bairstow batted convincingly for a while, and I sought out Five O, Saint and Skip, who were sat in the same stand as us. The customary England collapse occurred shortly after Skip advised me that he was holding a barbeque at home that evening, and after a look at England’s scorecard I could not help wondering if Skip was serving duck.
England all out for 183.
Buttler looked all at sea, and Dan Lawrence added yet another duck to his burgeoning collection. You honestly do have to wonder if these batsmen are truly the best that County Cricket has to offer.
England failed to take a wicket up to stumps and we repaired to the Trent Navigation, where the excellent live acoustic music soothed our troubled souls. We were joined by Chris and Pete from the Barmy Army, and also Wycombe and a couple of his pals. No sign of Sober Nick, although one of the lads did have his rucksack.
The subject of a recall for Keaton Jennings was discussed. “But he’s from bloody South Africa” complained Lofty. ” So are you!” observed the ever-sharp Higgy!
A train ride to Long Eaton returned us to The Bell, Higgys splendid local, where we were soon joined by Tony, Ryan and Sam from Long Eaton CC. Sam bore a passing resemblance to a character I had met last week in the Brighton KFC, and upon recounting the story, the poor lad came in for quite a bit of non-woke banter. I’m sorry Sam, I shouldnt have mentioned it!
Next morning, the text messages rolled in.
“I feel sorry for you if you have paid to watch that f***ing shambles!” from my mate Dave at Old Trafford. Hard to disagree really!
At Nottingham station we meet another disgruntled punter.
Its Andy Thompson from the Barmy Army, and this time it’s not just the batting.
“I am so fed up with that bloody song. It’s enough to make you give up watching cricket!”
Of course Andy is referring to the nu-cricket anthem for the twenty – something brain dead, “Don’t Take Me Home”. Once again, very hard to disagree.
As the game restarts India grimly add the runs and England do not take a wicket until the last ball before lunch, when Curran takes a catch on the boundary to give Ollie Robinson a wicket. Something nice to tweet about, Ollie!
I am wearing a New Zealand shirt today in order to distance myself from England’s pathetic batting yesterday and also to wind up the Indian fans. Judging by the hostile reaction of some of them, the latter objective is easily achieved.
During the lunch break, a giggle moment.
There is a nu-cricket fan sat directly in front of us wearing a new England Cinch cricket shirt – possibly for the first time. A cleaner comes up the stairs with a bin liner to collect rubbish, and Lofty casually flings in this mornings coffee cup-liberally spraying the lad’s new shirt in the process. The lad knows something isn’t right and he puts his hands behind his back for a feel but cannot swivel his neck 360 degrees.
Meanwhile, I am trying my best not to choke with laughter.
Lofty gets away with it.
Several wickets, including two from consecutive balls for Jimmy Anderson, cheer the mood in the afternoon. Sadly, bad light and rain curtail play at 3pm and we adjourn to The Bell thinking that no more cricket will happen. How wrong can you be? When we get to the pub, cricket restarted and the session lasted one ball! Later, the players resume again and this time, the session lasted two balls. You couldn’t write the script. What a great decision to depart the ground and this time, I feel sorry for the faithful souls who stuck it out.
A discussion about football then ensues and Lofty is surprised to find out the identity of the Derby County manager. “But he can’t string two bloody words together!”
Cue general laughter.
It is curry night tonight at the splendid Al-Naseeb so I offer to take Loftys rucksack and bring this to the cricket ground in the morning. I soon regret my generosity when said rucksack is heavy enough to be full of gold ingots – probably from the Lake Toplitz horde.
A great curry with Tony, Ryan and Sam and special thanks to Sam for giving Lofty a not inconsiderable lift back to his hotel in Nottingham after the meal.
Day 3 begins with a stagger to the bakery for sandwiches, toting both my own and Loftys stuff. As we finally get to the front of the queue, another grumpy Long Eaton pensioner appears outside the shop and usurps our order with a series of bellowed requests.
“There’s no point me queuing if they haven’t got what I want!” she cheerfully explains.
If I had a cane, I would be banging it on the floor with frustration as we anxiously look at our watches regarding the imminently departing train.
I am beginning to feel rather weary by this time. On the platform the British Transport Police proudly announce their Three S’s policy: See it, Say it, Sort it! In reality, as the overfull train limps in, the three S’s stand for: Suffocating, Sweating, and Standing Room Only on this line, which is the same every day. Why can they not add a couple of coaches when events like this are on? The sardine can carriage does not, however, prevent two ladies, who are sat either side of the corridor, continuing their vital conversation via the medium of Higgys armpit.
Arriving at the ground we espy a Cheese Toastie stand and I politely enquire if Lofty would like one. To be met with a torrent of abuse.
“Are you Lactose intolerant, George?” Asks Higgy. “No, he’s just f***ing intolerant!” I dredge up from a tour of years gone by. As if to prove the point, Lofty is getting very impatient with KL Rahul and his delaying tactics.
“Take a journey back to Bengaluru in jerky motions” Lofty shouts, or at least that would be the PC translation of his exclamation.
Further wickets for England. Jimmy overtakes Anil Kumble on the all time list, which is some achievement for a pace bowler, and there is also a five wicket haul for Ollie Robinson. All of this is missed by Higgy, who is enjoying a drink or ten with Billy the ex- trumpeter of Barmy Army fame in the Larwood and Voce.
Despite the bowling heroics, India end up with a lead of 95, which we all fear is too many.
Today, play is curtailed by a dreadful shower which leads to a feral huddle behind the stand as people attempt to shelter or leave. I suspect if Professor Chris Witty was observing proceedings, he would be apoplectic.
Soaked through, we enjoy a drink with Lofty at his hotel before returning to The Bell.
England have managed to finish the day without losing a wicket, but are still 70 in arrears.
Day four finds us once again on the crowded 9.49 to Nottingham. Despite the gloomy weather forecast we are treated to the best cricket of the Test. An uninterrupted day, which starts with a virtuoso performance by a Stone Roses tribute band on the Sound Stage. The lads are playing ‘Waterfall” which I thought was a very appropriate choice for this Test Match!
Lofty is grumpy today. His hotel have served him up a continental breakfast instead of his customary fry-up. “Yes, it might be healthier, but I’ve paid eleven bloody quid for their f***ing breakfast” he moans.
The hapless Burns lasted just fifteen minutes, caught behind for 18.
Crawley lasted a further ten minutes, caught behind for 6. It is suddenly 46-2.
Joe Root comes in and immediately starts hitting a sequence of superb cover drives. At the other end is Sibley. All his runs have been scored in the same area on the leg side. Test Match Special Verdict : his wagon wheel would be a spoke! I liked that one.
As the clouds scud in and the floodlights come on Sibley is caught behind off a horrible, almost one handed shot and his technique is picked apart on TMS.
In truth though this has been by far and away the most enjoyable and gripping day of the Test thus far. Bairstow and Root bat well increasing England’s now slender lead. Unfortunately Bairstow nails a pull shot to the legside boundary and picks out the fielder. 177-4.
Enter Lawrence of Essex, who starts hitting boundaries, as if he has eaten a plentiful supply of spinach before padding up. It couldn’t last and it didn’t. Our Dan swung across the line at Thakur and was palpably lbw. Our lead 116-5 now. Mercifully, no further wickets before tea, with Buttler even playing a few swashbuckling shots. With Root nearing a superb century the score advanced to 235-5 at tea, a lead of 140.
The balloon was pricked second ball after tea. Buttler completely misjudged a leave and was bowled neck and crop. “You xxxxing idiot!” shouted Lofty, who is clearly not a fan. I must admit though the shot, or lack of it, made Buttler look like a complete novice.
We have had a lot of sun today, and some people have had a few too many beers. From our position half way up the stand next to the stairwell we can see the lot. A pissed-up middle aged man staggers up the stairs, flimsy beer tray slopping in his hands, looking for his pals. He is in the wrong section.
With an air of desperation he sits down on an empty row, beer slopping everywhere and arse crack showing, and gets out the mobile to phone his mates. Once having located them less than ten rows away, he sets off again down the stairs on his mission.
While all this is going on Root crashes Thakur for four to go to his century, bringing several choruses of ‘Don’t Take Me Home’ from the cricket intelligencia.
England’s tail wagged and there were some runs for Curran and Robinson, but alas not for Broad, who was out for a golden duck. Broad rarely seems to score any runs when we need him to – has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
The England innings ended on a curious note. After declining a single because Jimmy Anderson was at the other end, Ollie Robinson chipped the next ball to the boundary fielder. Goes to prove the old adage, never turn down a run. England all out for 303, leaving India the sum of 209 to win.
Stuart Broad is wearing his Kempetai headband and roaring in like a divine wind, takes the wicket of Rahul, caught behind. That is our final success.
The train home is completely chaotic and we run into Saint, Skip and Five-O at the station. Eventually after various delays we find ourselves back in the Bell, which is almost as full as the train and we struggle to get a table.
“Put some of your tunes on the free juke box Lofty.” I helpfully suggest. “That should clear out the pub a bit!”
Lofty is not amused.
The Bee Gees come on. “It’s just Barry, Maurice or Robin f***ing squeaking all the time!” observes our Germanic Gurn.” F***ing shite!”
Next, we get Mica, also squeaking away.
“Must have been put on by the same f***ing idiot that put the Bee Gees on!” opines Lofty.
Day five started with torrential rain which gradually got worse.
We never made it to Trent Bridge.
Instead, 11am found us in Hooters downing copious pints of beer and eating ribs and chicken wings, having been drenched on our way to Nottingham. The rain forced us into Hooters. We didn’t really want to go in, as I’m sure you will all understand. During the afternoon we were joined by the Long Eaton cricket boys, whose expedition to Trent Bridge on the airport bus had been led by young Sam.
They had only reached the Larwood and Voce.
By the time we all decided to reconvene in The Bell, things were getting rather messy.
Higgy, Tony and myself said our goodbyes to Lofty, after spending all afternoon trying to get him to sanitise his hands with sachets of mayonnaise. We left in a taxi.
The Sam expedition caught the airport bus home all right, but the one going in the opposite direction to that required. Which caused a little mirth when they eventually arrived at the pub!
What followed can only be described as one of my best nights out since the Covid fiasco started.
Not a frigging face mask in sight.
A pub full of locals who were seemingly addicted to Manchester music, singing and dancing to The Smiths, for gawds sake.
I dread to think how many beers were consumed and it is just as well that Lofty was not with us given his long drive ahead on Monday.
As I sat hungover on Long Eaton station on the way home, I put my music on, and another very appropriate track came up: “Little Aches and Pains”, a ballad celebrating the dubious blessings of middle age by the fabulous Australian singer Paul Kelly.
I reflected on my trip.
Despite the Test being ruined by the weather, I have had a great time as usual with my pals in Long Eaton and like Michael Palin at the conclusion of Himalaya I somehow feel bonded more strongly with all the great people I’ve met.
Special thanks to Higgy for the accommodation and Tony, Ryan and Sam (not forgetting Lofty of course!) for the superb company and all the laughs.
Headingley, here we come.