Sunny Caribbean skies over Trent Bridge…

28 05 2012

Sir Viv, at 60…


‘I felt I was an artist.’

‘I put on a performance.The way I came to the crease was part of my act.’

‘Wherever the fight is, I’m going to be fighting. I didn’t want to be rude to anyone but anyone who is rude to me, then I was going to be rude in the right way: my bat was going to tell the story. You had guys who didn’t believe in the black man.’

‘I didn’t wrap myself up in cotton wool – with a helmet, a chest guard, an elbow guard – I did it the way men should and I’m proud of that.’

 (Sir Vivian Richards – legendary West Indies batsman and cricket captain) 


The weather was almost Caribbean, not a cloud in the sky, and unseasonably hot for the last Sunday in May.

The shirt sleeved crowd, daubed in sunblock, sporting all manner of headgear, and ‘shades’ – but not an umbrella in site – streamed along the riverbank, flowing across the famous bridge into the cricket ground that bears it’s name – all set for a good day’s play. 

It was back in 1838 that the first cricket match took place behind the Trent Bridge Inn. The renowned ‘TBI’ is still there, and the ground, though much changed from William Clarke’s old meadow, has recently been included in the top 5 Test venues, worldwide, in a survey carried out by The Cricketer Magazine – and quite right too. 

Trent Bridge sits in exalted company, alongside Lord’s, the undisputed home of cricket, Newlands (Cape Town), the Adelaide Oval, and Galle (Sri Lanka), the judging panel described it as, ‘a model of modern reconstruction that has expanded upwards and outwards but sacrificed none of its riverside charm.’

As I settled into my seat, perched in the middle tier of the Radcliffe Road Stand, a delightful bird’s eye view, directly behind the bowler’s arm, the old place was humming; the anticipatory buzz of conversation, as the first, thirst slaking, lagers of the day found their mark.

The general consensus was that we were in for a day of calypso cricket. However it wouldn’t be West Indies calling the tune, but England, who had overnighted on 259-2, in reply to the tourists’ 1st innings score of 370. Captain, Strauss, on 102, and ‘KP’ , on 72, were set to resume, on a flat wicket.

Just a few metres to my left, pre-match banter amongst ‘TMS’ commentators suggested an England run-fest and around 700 on the board by the close of play.

It pays not to be too smug, as big sporting occasions seldom conform to a pre-ordained script. Yesterday was no exception.

This West Indian team may be a shadow of the all-conquering sides of the ‘70s and ‘80s, billed as the warm-up act for the real business of the summer, a three match series with South Africa (1st versus 2nd in the current World standings) but they dug their heels in and made things really difficult  for England.  

Pietersen fell early (almost a given when I’m present) making just another seven runs, Strauss stalled, taking an age to add a further 39 to his score, while Bell and Prior both perished after looking set, and new kid on the block, Johnny Bairstow, was found out by some hostile short pitched bowling from Kemar Roach. It took a measured lower order partnership between Pontefract’s finest, Tim Bresnan, and local hero, Stuart Broad, to see England past the 400 mark, and a final score of 428.

Unfortunately for the West Indies bowlers, having stuck to the task of restricting England to a modest  lead, of just 58, their top order batsmen folded like a pack of cards, with four wickets falling before the deficit had been cleared, and a further two going down before the close of play.

With a meagre lead of three runs and the current world number one batsman, Shiv Chanderpaul, back in the pavilion, uncharacteristically out, miss-hooking a short ball from Stuart Broad down to the long leg boundary – safely pouched by Jonathan Trott – England were set fair for 4-day win to take the series.*

Three wickets fell, for ten runs, to the reverse swing of England’s unsung pace bowler, Yorkshire-man, Tim Bresnan. Something of a lucky charm, England have won every one of the 12 Tests ‘Brez’ has played in.   

Disappointed West Indian legend, Sir Viv Richards, guesting as a ‘TMS’ summariser, was less than complimentary about the manner in which some West Indian batsmen had surrendered their wickets, “It was immature and those individuals concerned need to think about the requirements to play at this level.”    

Sir Viv, now 60 years old, has happy memories of Trent Bridge where he played his first Test innings on English shores. It was the 1976 series where he announced himself with a little matter of 232 runs, flaying the England attack to all parts of the ground – clocking up 148 in boundaries (31 fours and four sixes).

Unfortunately, I somehow missed out on that Test. In fact, having consulted a stack of old score cards and match programmes (I tend to hoard these things) I was somewhat surprised to find that I’ve only twice seen the West Indies, at Trent Bridge. The first occasion was 1966 and the second, as long ago as, 1988!

In ’88 match it was the first day of a five match Test series. As I recall, I had a front row seat in the upper tier of the, recently replaced, George Parr Stand.

Chris Broad, father of Stuart (who would have been just coming up to his second birthday) and now an ICC Test official, opened the batting – putting on 125 for the first wicket, with current England batting coach, Graham Gooch.

Broad made a half century, before being bowled, by, the late great, Malcolm Marshall, who took 4-54 as England finished the day on, a respectable, 220 for 5.

Another batsman from that day, Alan Lamb, was at the ground yesterday, for a lunch interval question and answer session, at ‘England’s 12th man hub’ – conveniently situated beside the ‘TBI’.

‘Lamby’, who had a better record than most against the fiery West Indies pace attack, taking six centuries off them, lasted just three balls  – pegged lbw for a duck, another Marshall victim.      

In that series, Viv Richards was captaining an ageing group of West Indies players, top of the world for over a decade, but perhaps, some dared suggest, past their best. England, buoyed by this pre-series hype, flattered to deceive, drawing the Trent Bridge Test, reasonably comfortably, before being blown away by the WIndies in the remaining four – as normal service was resumed.    

The side, supposedly in decline, included, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Carl Hooper, Courtney Walsh, Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose – any of whom would have walked into the current team.

Richardson, who like Richards eschewed the batting helmet for his trademark maroon floppy hat, is on tour, as an administrator, with the current team. Apparently, these days, he is as at home with his bass guitar as the bat, playing in a reggae band with Curtly Ambrose – ‘Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead’!      

That First Test of the ‘88 series was also notable as being Mike Gatting’s last, as England captain. Having survived the notorious on-field altercation, with umpire Shakoor Rana, which escalated into a diplomatic incident, during the previous winter tour, to Pakistan, he finally fell, undone by tabloid allegations of late night ‘shenanigans’ with a local barmaid, during the Nottingham Test.

*             As I have been typing, England have, indeed, won the 2nd Test by 9 wickets. But the West Indies, to their credit, didn’t capitulate as easily as they might – setting a target of 108 and taking the game into the final session of the day.  

It  is the first time the West Indies have ever lost a first class game at Trent Bridge.  

‘Man of the Match’, Tim Bresnan, has extended his England record – played 13 won 13…









2 responses

29 05 2012

Good to see you back. I thought you’d fallen in the Trent. I was at Trent Bridge in 1976 as a friend took me along for a late 21st. birthday present. At the time I didn’t realise how special it was.

29 05 2012

I used to live just down the road from Trent Bridge. I walked past in many times and on the odd occasion frequented the TBI but never went in the grounds! Not much of a cricket fan I’m afraid… 🙂

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