Posted by: nestaquin | April 23, 2008

A Day at The Oval

Kensington OvalIn the not too distant past the month of April would be highly anticipated around cricketing circles as it heralded the beginning of the centuries old English domestic season. Most of the best available players from around the planet would don the thick wooly jumper of their respective county and battle against the locals, the climate and often their own countrymen in glorious games on fields of green.

However, with the introduction of the IPL the cricketing focus has shifted and our friends in the UK, if the press, both mainstream and independent, are to be trusted, are despondent, confused and mostly in denial about the fate and future of their traditional and too oft-neglected home competition. Our man in the UK, The Tooting Trumpet, in typical Churchillian spirit, donned the stiff upper lip and is manning the trenches to keep cricket relevant in the land of its invention.

What is it that Keeps English County Cricket Going?

All around the rapidly changing world of cricket, if English domestic cricket is noticed at all, a version of my headline’s question isn’t far away. There are lots of long answers to it and one very short one. Here’s the short one – County Cricket Club members like it.

The Trumpet decided to take the plunge and fork out £150 for a membership of Surrey County Cricket Club based at The Oval, a ground both developing beyond recognition, yet steeped in history (cricket was first played there in 1845). Sunday saw the Trumpet’s first match as a member, notable for a magnificent 163 from returning to form Andrew Strauss – SurreyTV provides excellent highlights should you so wish.

So what does the County Member get for £150? First and foremost, a lot of cricket. Entry to all Surrey’s home games, including outgrounds and the sellout Twenty20 fixtures is merely a matter of showing the card. Important for families is the £15 Junior Membership which has all the County Membership benefits, plus goody bags – given that public transport is free for kids in London, there’s fewer better bargains than that.

Once inside the ground, another display of the card affords access to the magnificent Pavilion, alas currently closed whilst contentious development works are underway. Nevertheless, members were offered access to the debenture lounge in the equally magnificent OCS stand‘s second tier, where beer was very reasonably priced with plenty of staff to serve a healthy (and thirsty) turnout. The Trumpet met friends there and enjoyed a day of decent, if not top quality, cricket (Strauss excepted) and excellent company. What more can one ask?

Well quite a bit actually.

Some 16 days after making his application, the Trumpet is yet to receive his card (and so gained ground admittance via his receipt). Applying online isn’t easy, but that saves a monumental £20 administration fee should you actually write in or even pitch up, in person, cash-in-hand (as I did). It should be noted, however, that every contact with Surrey staff by phone or at the ground has been characterised by a polite and helpful attitude that is a credit to the Club.

Given the vagaries of English weather, you would expect to be always informed of its impact on the game – but you would be wrong. On Friday, the County Championship game with Lancashire saw no play after tea, despite the light being dim but not dangerous – I know, I was there. After an hour supping a warmish beer, the covers rolled on without so much as a word from the public address. Needless to say, the televisions in the bar did not have the correct subscription to show Friday’s IPL games which were underway at the time. Come Sunday, the weather hadn’t improved much, but less than an hour before the start of play, there was no indication on Surrey’s website as to whether conditions were playable.

Friday’s lack of public announcements became more understandable on Sunday, when the Trumpet learned that such announcements were completely inaudible in any case. Worse still, two brand new scoreboards failed to show anything about the bowlers beyond how many overs they had bowled. When Chris Schofield completed his excellent spell, we were left wondering if he had figures of 1 for 40 or 1 for 25. Not good enough.

All in all, and after but one full day’s attendance, the Trumpet awards Surrey’s treatment of him with a 7/10 – a good start, but definitely a case of “could do better”.

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Responses

  1. Good Blog. I will continue reading it in the future. Nice layout too.

    Aaron Wakling

  2. Thanks Aaron. I’m lucky to have a spot above the line, but, like all good blogs, the comments below the line really add to the reader’s experience.

  3. Haven’t seen the fixed camera at one end TV coverage like that of Surrey TV for over a quarter century.

    Perhaps they could use some of your fees Toots and get a bloke behind the camera so we could actually see a catch or boundary or two.

    There’s an analogy in the similarities of Surrey TV and English cricket in general but I am far too polite to highlight it.

    Fantastic insight into the game in London. Was it as cold as it appeared on video?

  4. SurreyTV isn’t too bad for an operation of its size and it is commendably quick in posting material to its website. It’s its second season in operation and there’s room to improve! (Like English cricket!)

    It was chilly in the morning, but became relatively warm in the afternoon (say 10C improving to 15C). But April can be very cold in England (though last year it was regularly 20C!).

    The Oval is so central in London, as is Lord’s. That isn’t always the case with sports grounds.

  5. Tooting: Interesting stuff. I think you’ve inspired me to go find out more about membership at my local CC club. After all, (I presume it’s the same at Surrey) membership at Yorkshire gets you a bit more notice of ticket releases for internationals too.

  6. Metatone – For a retiree with a bit of money and a lot of time, it’s a great bargain. For the likes of me, with money but not time, it’s hard to justify without the kids. It’s a classy offer once you buy in though.

    My father took me to cricket, football, speedway all kinds of sport and it was a fantastic education – I’m paying him back a bit taking my boys.

    Let me know how you get on.

    Good to see you here too – I hope you’ll nose around a bit as there’s good stuff above and below the line.

  7. I am an internet member of Surrey. 40 pounds to allow me to get to the front of the queue for Test tickets. Six tickets cost me 350 pounds !
    I will be swerving into Headingley next week for the Notts game. Sideshow v Hoggy in a swing off. Broad v Vaughan. I am a neutral but would love to see Virgil score a ton.

  8. Enjoy it Bush – perhaps you can let me know how you get on!

  9. Toot – You will be surprised that 30 years back we used to follow each county game as much as we do today on test cricket.There were very few Indians playing in the counties.From memory I can recall Bedi,Doshi,Engineer were the regulars.British council used to be the source of detailed articles on what was happening.I will be disappointed to see it wither away.

  10. Fly – I would have expected that of the India of thirty years ago – in some ways, it’s like the veneration in which PG Wodehouse is held on the sub-continent. Faroukh Engineer is very much a Lancashire man, and I recall Bedi at Notts and Doshi (I think) at Derbyshire.

    When India toured, we marvelled at the small, and (there’s no other word for it) wristy batsmen: Viswanath and Gavaskar, Gaekwad in his glasses and later Vengsarkar and Azharuddin with that unforgettable whip through midwicket.

    It’s trite to say that India has changed, but it has and, while I miss the joy of discovering new talent when the touring team arrive (that happens more with SL now) it’s great that us Brits can follow new Indian cricketers (like Ishant) in a global cricket media.

  11. Hi

    I’m a Surrey member and my experience largely mirrors yours. I was there on the same day and I agree that the information provision needs to be worked on (the scoreboards are SUPREMELY unhelpful, and I only knew that play was restarting after the rain by overhearing a message that was relayed to one of the steward’s radios). But the staff were helpful and courteous especially when I was wandering around not knowing where I was going, and I liked the lounge in the OCS stand. Membership is expensive if you work and therefore can’t go to the weekday stuff, and I don’t have any children to take along with me, but can I throw something else into the mix? As I usually go on my own, I like the sense of belonging, and of being able to strike up conversation with someone in the lounge.

  12. Miriam – Thank you for your comment. I hope to meet you here and at The Oval in the future.

    Your point about the sense of belonging is a very good one. The opportunity to strike up conversation with interesting people should never be taken for granted as it gets less frequent the older you get!!


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