So, following our ridiculously early and sober night, I dragged myself out of bed and headed down to Costa for a breakfast coffee. Very civilised having a Costa on the doorstep. Eventually I hobbled (with my trusty cane) back to the room to meet up with Nicktor and Frank and then back down in time to be collected by Neil and Angela for the short trip to breakfast.
At the Premier Inn we met up with Pete and Mike and settled down to the traditional all English then climbed into our pre-ordered mini-bus. They let me sit in the back in the seat with the most legroom, so it was a very comfortable trip across the Pennines to Old Trafford.
The biggest concern of the day was the weather. According to the morning news, a big front of rain was heading up from the south and would reach Manchester by midday. This would mean very little cricket, given it started at 11am. Still, we were all hopeful that we’d hear some leather on willow.
At Old Trafford we met up with Simon and we were seven. We made our Gary induced slow way to the entrance and sailed through. In fact, it was the smoothest transition into a cricket ground I’ve experienced. Of course, not being at Headingly meant everyone who had an umbrella could hang onto it.
As I’ve mentioned somewhere else on this blog, the MCC stopped holding Test cricket matches at Old Trafford a few years ago and this marked the first return to Manchester. One of the things they did during the interim was to spin the wicket around 90 degrees.
In a lovely bit of serendipity, this turned out very well for us. In our usual seats we would have had an awful view looking down the bowler’s arm or the batsman’s back. As we were seated in the big temporary stand, we found ourselves looking mid wicket again. Perfect.
Mind you, the temporary stand was not the best place to spend an entire day – many steps up to it and then just boards and scaffolding defying gravity – but, at least the view was good.
And so the cricket started. Prior started off in an attacking mood and was soon blasting boundaries everywhere. But the English side were struggling with the bat and were soon all out, leaving the Australians to pile on as many runs as they could before an expected declaration.
Meanwhile, in the crowd, there was the usual odd costumes. Just a few included a group of six men dressed as Virgin air hostesses, a large group of Benedictine monks, a sullen lot of people wearing bird heads and wings, five Richie Benauds complete with Channel Nine commentary microphones and two women who Frank admired from behind – he quickly changed his mind when they turned and he saw their full beards.
It seemed this year that the Australian fans were dotted around the pitch in sizeable groups. You could easily spot them from either their green and gold cricket shirts, their thongs or their yellow headgear.
On the pitch there was a quick turn around and the Australians took to the crease, ready to increase their score. Which they did in excellent time without losing all their wickets to imperfect batting.
The English bowling wasn’t that bad but the Aussie’s had the bit between their teeth and were ready to fight. Meanwhile, we were having a lovely time, discussing the cricket, holidays and general bloke stuff.
I was sat on the aisle then it was Pete, Simon, Mike, Neil, Frank and Nicktor. Jonathon, who rarely arrives before 5pm, wasn’t there. Here’s Neil sneaking into a photo that was supposed to be of Nicktor.
We were busy discussing how long Clarke would keep batting (best bet seemed to be an hour before stumps) when the umpires suddenly declared it was too dark to play. The English fielders were off the field and in the pavilion before the words have left the umpire’s mouth.
The Australian batsman stayed and argued for a bit before, finally, following the umpires in. And then the rain started. At first it was just spots and then it was splops and, finally, as we stood huddled under a concrete stand, it was torrential.
This was good, honest, Manchester rain. None of your pathetic southern drizzle, as the northerners among us asserted. Eventually, the day was declared finished and we called for the taxi to pick us up early.
Though the end of the day was a bit of downer, it was still excellent, with the usual banter and re-acquainting with old friends. It’s like that for Nicktor as well these days, given he no longer works with any of them. And they all accept me as one of them. It’s one of the reasons I love going. A nicer bunch of chaps, you’d be hard pressed to find. And they were all just as friendly to Frank (it was his first time).
A really marvellous day.
The taxi back to Huddersfield was basically through rain, though it eased off as we pulled back into the Travelodge, having dropped the others off along the way. We then hit the showers before meeting back downstairs for our trip into Holmfirth.
Nicktor loves quite a few anarchic bands, mostly punk, mostly obscure but sometimes, well known. Holmfirth has a venue called the Picturedrome where many bands to Nicktor’s liking regularly perform. The last time we went, we saw Paul Carrack who, while popular with most of the audience, was a bit middle of the road for me and thoroughly disliked by Nicktor.
Anyway, this year, Nicktor checked out who was going to be performing and it was a band he has loved since he was about ten. The Damned. A band I only knew from their 1986 hit Eloise.
Now I can’t say I enjoyed everything about the concert but it was a lot better than Paul Carrick. Something all three of us enjoyed (Nicktor, Frank and me) was the support act, Skeletal Family. The female lead singer was a bundle of energy and absolute enjoyment. And they performed a fantastic version of Radar Love (a song from my youth).
Nicktor managed to get himself photographed with Ann-Marie, the Skeletal Family lead singer. He posted the photo on Blip. You can see it here.
All in all, a fantastic night and a wonderful way to finish off our northern cricket trip. And I didn’t have one drop of alcohol. I’m fairly certain that had something to with my overall enjoyment.