Ball One – Festival cricket on a sunny day – is there a better way to spend time? With spectators banked up on plastic chairs, an old-fashioned scoreboard rolling the numbers round and only the dull buzz of Croydon’s traffic to remind us that we’re in urban and not rural parts life is good. And there’s full value for the spectators too, with Chris Tremlett and KP in the Surrey ranks and Alastair Cook (out early today) playing for Essex.
Ball Two – On a very decent strip, in perfect batting conditions and short boundaries (but aren’t they always these days) to protect, James Foster has to decide whether to stick or twist. With seven wickets still in hand and 170 runs on, does he have a target in mind? Traditionally, a captain would not give the opposition a sniff in such circumstances, but why not? Something like 320 off 50 overs is certainly within Essex’s power to set and might tempt Surrey, especially KP, to have a pop at it – and who knows what might happen then. If Foster closes out the game, happy with a draw, he’ll do the crowd and the game a disservice. Sometimes a captain must risk defeat to force the win.
Ball Three – There’s an informality on outgrounds that one does not find at the bigger grounds. At lunch, there were plenty of autographs signed by KP, Alastair Cook and others with nobody turned down. It was my great pleasure to spend an hour chatting to Pat “Percy” Pocock who related the most wonderful stories of playing in India, the West Indies and around England. A gentleman of the first order.
Ball Four – Umpires used to be like grandads – old men, slightly eccentric, avuncular. Today’s umpirse are Graham Lloyd and Richard Kettleborough. It seems only five minutes ago that I was watching them play. Tempus fugit indeed.
Ball Five – First innings destroyer Graham Napier departs to the second ball after lunch, dismissed by Zander de Bryun of all suspects. Surrey have a sniff here, but they’ll need a bit of luck and they’ll have to take their chances. On a day that promised little in the way of tension, there’s plenty in the middle just now. Grand game this county championship cricket isn’t it?
Ball Six – Helped by a superb cricket wicket, offering carry and bounce for those prepared to bend their backs or rip the ball. With the science of today, I cannot fathom why such a pitch is the exception rather than the rule – the grand game is grander when ball comes on to bat.