Our star sports reporter Roderick Howlett reports from Nottingham’s Trent Bridge on the opening day of the test match between England and the West Indies. It proved eventful, on and off the pitch.
I don’t think I could’ve chosen a much better activity to put to rest the demons of exams than by going to watch some Test Cricket at Trent Bridge. By the same token, however, I don’t think I could’ve had a worse start to the day. Walking behind the Pavilion (and thanks to wearing flip-flops), I managed to stub my toe. Before a ball had been bowled, before I had stepped into the stands, my foot was covered in blood at least half an hour before the start of the match. I can confirm that the inside of Trent Bridge’s first aid room doesn’t provide much for pre-match atmosphere.
Regardless of this bloody start, I was determined to enjoy what promised to be an entertaining day of the highest quality cricket. Having lost the first Test at Lords, the West Indies would be looking to dig deep to find some kind of batting form and make something of the series. Things were not obviously in their favour, either. Trent Bridge, of course, is a haven for the swing bowler. A haven for, well, the kind of bowlers England have been using for the past year. With all this in hand and the dry conditions associated with a batsman’s wicket, Darren Sammy won the toss and chose to bat.
I took my seat in front of two elderly, opinionated, gentlemen, who made up most of my entertainment for the day, as well as (from the committee room), the Justice Secretary and Rushcliffe MP, Ken Clarke. The problem with the latter was that I’d already spent a good fifteen minutes reading the paper which included news condemning his policies, before realising that he was peering over my shoulder. I wasted no time in reaching for the sport section to make my priorities clear.
Following the stresses of being scrutinised, the guard of honour was formed, Jerusalem blasted from the speakers and the whole of the Pavilion politely applauded the emergence of the England team. Is there a better sound in cricket than the rattle of cricket boot spikes charging down Pavilion steps to play cricket? After all the patriotism and English fighting spirit had died down (temporarily), Strauss set his field, the last stragglers came in and the game could finally begin. Particularly notable was the appearance of a few dozen supporters from the West Indies in comparison to the miniscule number that turned up to Lords. Whether that’s a reflection on the cosmopolitan nature of Nottingham, I’m not sure.
Less than half an hour later, Adrian Barath was walking back to the pavilion for a thirteen ball duck and the stands were once again humming with the excitement of the return of Test cricket to Nottingham. By lunch, the West Indies were four down and, as predicted, the ball was nipping on and around the batsmen’s edge. Stuart Broad claimed two, as did James Anderson – including the wicket of Darren Bravo, notable for his return to Trent Bridge following a spell last year as one of Notts’ overseas players.
I spent lunchtime talking with Peter Wynne Thomas, the archivist and historian at Trent Bridge, which was more than necessary to serve as a break from the two nostalgic men sitting behind me in my seat. Peter, as ever, had more to tell me about an enigmatic scorecard from the 1890s found in someone’s attic, than anything to do with the cricket being played today.
After lunch, England took another two wickets, partially from the pressure applied from a few near unplayable overs from Anderson, who really came into his own. So much so, it compelled the drunk men dressed as Teletubbies to sing the only song they knew. “Ooh Jimmy Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Anderson”, rang out from the Fox Road stand.
Throughout the day, the sun had remained unblocked, other than from the shadow of the West Indies flag towering over the pavilion. In the final session, that appeared to be a metaphor for the assault that followed from Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, clouding the sun on an English day. Taking some time to settle in to his innings and the partnership, after about an hour, Samuels began to penetrate the increasingly weary England bowling attack.
By the end of the day, in the penultimate over, as Ken Clarke sipped the foamy dregs from the end of his third pint of the day, Samuels had made a hundred, and his partner, Sammy, an equally fine eighty eight. They had blotted England’s copybook, though with a bit of swing in the morning and refreshed danger in potentially overcast conditions, the Test is very much open in either side’s favour. I, for one, was happy – a West Indian dominated afternoon beats A Level Spanish revision every day of the week.