(Not) Played in England

I know that cricket is played in England. I've seen it on TV. Indeed, in the last nine days or so I've seen three One-Day Internationals played to a finish.

But can I see any live? Can I hell.

Can I play? Oh no.

On Sunday 24th June I plan to go to Bovey Tracey to see Devon play Wiltshire. However, it's clear from the torrential rain sweeping down my road that there won't be any play. There isn't any on the following day either and the match is put out of its misery and moved to Exmouth, where it's done and dusted in a few hours. I'm at work.

The following Sunday, 1st July, I'm selected to play for my club, the Erratics, against Cheriton Fitzpaine, but the Cheriton ground, a 'secluded' (in other words impossible to find) patch of mid-Devon countryside about the size of the average back garden is so sodden after weeks of virtually incessant rain that the game's called off on the preceding Friday evening.

At around the same time, the County Ground at Worcester, one of the most famous grounds in the world, disappears under the lapping waters of the River Severn, something which hasn't happened during the cricket season since 1969.

So, on Sunday 8th July, there's only one thing for it. A trip to Worcester. On the road from Exeter at 8, a quick drive up the M5, park up and walk down to the ground to be confronted by a notice which announces that there will be no play before lunch and that there will be an inspection at 1.15. A polite enquiry to the corpulent and testy turnstile operator elicits the gruff statement that 'There will be no refunds!'. Right. I don't think I'll pay then.

The atmosphere outside the ground is pungent in more ways than one. The hideous stench of raw sewage from the receded floodwaters mingles with the tense imprecations of the punters turning back at the gates. Indeed, one older gentleman is so irate that he conducts a loud and prolonged verbal dialogue with himself about the merits of the club's decision not to move the game to another venue.

Time to meet my friend Alan and go for a walk around the nondescript, seagull-spattered centre of Worcester. After a while the sun begins to beat down and we return with some hope at 1.30 only to find that there will be another inspection at 3, but that play looks doubtful. So it's off across the road to sit by the bowling green where we meet a man who is happy to talk at us for over an hour about subjects as diverse as the batting of Cameron White, the social composition of the population of Budleigh Salterton and what you do if you go to China for two weeks and don't like Chinese food.

At 3 we return to the ground to find that any hope of play has been abandoned for the day, if indeed, there ever was any hope (a member of the groundstaff later tells us that they knew at eight o'clock in the morning that there wouldn't be any play). It's depressing, if predictable, news, but not half as depressing as hearing the strident tones of the Kent supporting woman with a voice like a broken foghorn who's notorious from Canterbury to Taunton.

After a stroll round the ground, one section of which bears a disturbing resemblance to a dried-up river bed, it's time to return home.

In Worcester the weather has been perfect but on the way back I encounter a violent rainstorm in north Somerset which turns the motorway into a river and forces me to stop. However, by the time I'm back in Exeter, some twelve hours after leaving, the sun is beating down so brightly that I can barely see where I'm going. I wearily park the car and look at the dials. Oh dear.

I've driven 285 miles and I haven't seen a ball bowled. I'm hungry and I'm tired. I'm wondering why I bother with cricket.

I'll try again at Taunton on Friday.

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