Tunbridge Wells A Magnificent Backdrop
Comment and Analysis | 5th June 2010
What a glorious venue. Despite being given sufficient advance warning I must admit to being totally taken aback by the beauty of Tunbridge Wells cricket ground.
The weather certainly helped - there couldn’t have been a greater contrast with the final day of the Essex match last Tuesday (rain, rain and more rain!) and the opening day of this fixture. The Garden of England had laid on a scorching hot day and the fans had responded by coming out in their numbers to support the game in this northerly outpost.
As an outground this is one of the most spectacular I’ve ever been to – and I’ve done Worksop!
The journey down was fairly uneventful save for the usual hold-ups. It’s always a downer when the overhead motorway signs read, “M25 – Queues Ahead – Expect Long Delays.”
This enforced stoppage coincided with a Groundhog Day moment – I flicked the car radio from station to station to station and found that three of them were simultaneously playing Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” – I guess they’ve already got Noddy Holder primed and ready to go for December 1st..!
I found myself wishing that I’d hung on to my collection of ‘Third Man’ audio cassettes from around 15 years ago. In case that doesn’t ring any bells they were an Australian parody on life in a cricket commentary box and featured a spoof team of Richie Benaud constantly battling with the names of the Sri Lankan players, Bill Lawry discussing his pigeons and Max ‘Tangle’ Walker trying to get a moment of airtime – it might not sound much written here but if you love your cricket try and get hold of them – they’re hilarious and ideal for a long car journey!
Sadly I ended up with the Steve Wright Show and his factoids section – I love a good stat but there weren’t any cricket ones on offer – at least none to match the gem given to me by John Ellison, Notts’ Retail Manager this week, who advised me that in 1983 the county didn’t produce it’s annual handbook for the only time in living memory (unless any of you did get one!).
Waiting in line to go over the Dartford Crossing I became acutely aware that on either side of me virtually every vehicle was flying an England flag – would I be allowed over the crossing for not having one, I mused – was this some part of a Thursday afternoon ritual I had not been aware of?
Anyhow, it just cost the standard £1.50 to reach the ‘south’ side and I secretly hoped that most of these other travellers were about to proceed down to Dover and hop on a cross-channel ferry. Just imagine the reaction as they arrived on French soil, “Sacre bleus – Zey have all come wiz ze flags..!”
Whilst it’s just Union Jacks for now – imagine the country’s reaction if Roo and Co do manage to return from South Africa with the gold. Certainly cricket wouldn’t get much of a mention for the rest of this summer.
I saw a piece this week on the BBC website of a Glamorgan-following broadcasting colleague who had bravely donned the pads and protective gear to face Aussie pace-ace Shaun Tait in the nets at Sophia Gardens and wondered if I would fancy doing something similar. Watching the Notts bowlers going through their paces before start of play quickly snapped me back into the real world – would I fancy facing Darren Pattinson, even for fun………err, no! Darren looked really sharp but that potency will have to go into cold storage as Chris Read wins the toss and elects to bat.
Alex Hales’ 95 was a wonderful innings to witness. I’m delighted that he’s converting his potential into first eleven substance – but what a shame he falls for a caught and bowled for the second week running.
Tunbridge Wells is a town that is understandably proud of it’s heritage and is associated with it’s fair share of names. Former England captain David Gower and ex-Pogues lead man Shane MacGwan were born here, comedienne Jo Brand and tennis goddess Virgina Wade were educated in TW, whilst John Ritchie (later to become Sid Vicious) was raised in the town.
Former Essex seamer Mark Ilott and the recently retired Mark Ealham were the most notable ‘names’ at the Nevill Ground today but what an opportunity I missed when I popped into a local hostelry after play and they were enthusing about a recent visit by Penelope Keith in there………….this place really does have class!
Dave Bracegirdle broadcasts for BBC Radio Nottingham and will provide ball-by-ball commentary on all four days of the match from Tunbridge Wells. Access his commentary via the cricket pages of BBC Sport or click on the commentary link at the top of the homepage during play.