By Richard Beale ……
We are privileged to live in this beautiful part of the world and for most of the time we want for nothing. I must confess though like a lot of the male expat community I miss real ale, don’t get me wrong Efes, Tuborg are a good substitute but you cannot beat a good pint of English beer.
I also think the most I miss however, is cricket I know in the TRNC we have a cricket league but it’s not the same.
On my short visit back to the UK in September I was very fortunate to pencil in two cricket days in our hectic schedule which on both occasions, not by choice, involved the subsequent County Champions – Surrey.
WORCESTER v SURREY (September 13, second day)
First of all I must compliment GWR excellent value for money £10-25 return from Bristol Parkway – Worcester Foregate Street, arrival and return trains both on time.
It was good to return to New Road where I have been an occasional visitor from the 70’s to the present and have enjoyed many good times there. Players such as Tom Graveney, Basil D’Oliveria, Norman Gifford, Phill Neale, Graham Hick, all stalwarts, with imports including Glen McGrath, Ian Botham, Graham Dilley, Tom Moody bring back memories also not forgetting seeing Moeen Ali develop into a world class performer..
New Road, Worcester with its iconic landmark, Surrey players leaving the field
The ground has changed a lot since the early 1970’s, sorry to say not for the good with the Premier Inn looking very box like and ugly. The Graham Hick Pavilion is tastefully done and of course thankfully the “Ladies” Pavilion being a cricket icon is still intact. The magnificent view of Worcester Cathedral still dominates the background.
Back to the cricket and Surrey were at the crease with England expectant Rory Burns relentlessly composing another century. Eventually Worcestershire young team attack bowled the champions elect out giving them a first innings lead of 68. Worcestershire openers made good progress to the luncheon interval. Time for a beer, very disappointingly the only bar that was open was in the Graham Hick Pavilion which was serving some gassy keg at £4.25 a pint. We would like to support the cricket club but when you can walk into the centre of Worcester to Wetherspoon’s Postal Order, a mere 10 minutes from the ground, and buy a pint of Otter Ale or Ruddles Bitter from the hand pumps at £1-79 it is no contest. Also the Wednesday special of roast chicken breast, veg and mash came with a free drink at £6-99 left us again with no option..
Eventually we meandered back to the ground to see Surrey’s formidable bowling attack led by the South African Test bowler Morne Morkel rip through Worcester’s second innings, he would eventually take 5-24.
Time for tea! when visiting New Road a must is a trip to the Ladies Pavilion to sample their marvellous homemade cakes washed down with a cup of tea. They have been serving cakes and teas in the Ladies Pavilion for over 60 years, it is one of the great traditions of cricket and the ladies fare did not disappoint.
The famous Ladies Pavilion and inside displaying their wares
Meanwhile in the final session Morkel aided by Tom Curran and spinner Virdi bowled out Worcester in their second innings for 203, leaving Surrey 274 runs to win the match. We again watched Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman put on an unbeaten century partnership (111) before stumps. We had time for a couple more Otter Ales at the Postal Order again, before catching the train back to Bristol, which ended a very enjoyable day
Surrey eventually won the match by 3 wickets and were duly crowned County Champions..
SOMERSET v SURREY ( Tuesday 18th September, first day).
The County Ground, Taunton is one of the most picturesque cricket grounds on the circuit. The “home of cricket” for me always looks magnificent whatever the weather, on this cloudy day St James Church tower was looking splendid.
Somerset’s ground home to such greats as Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Joel Garner, Andy Caddick, Marcus Trescothick, Viv Marks and Josh Butler again always bring back good memories.
St James Church dominates the scene and right the players pavilion.
A very good sized crowd, like at Worcester, were in attendance, people like me with grey or silver hair, aged over 60. They say 4 day cricket is declining and dying, T20 is new cricket for the next generation. Yes the Clubs need the T20 income to survive, but without 4 day cricket there would be no Test cricket, I do fear for County and Test cricket.
Another chance to see Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman, as they did at Worcester, compose another large partnership, this time 147 for the first wicket. This was not a normal Somerset pitch of late, the pitch was flat offering no assistance to the Somerset bowling attack.
Back to beer, plenty of bars opened at the County Ground, Tribute at £3.75 with a “carrot on a stick” offer to buy 8 get I FREE (not all at once I may add), I decided to give it a go and they duly stamped my beer card with my first pint.
Surrey progressed to lunch without loss, so we decided to nip outside and visit the Princess Royal, what you might call a “cricket pub” An excellent meal of faggots, mash and peas washed down by 2 more pints of Tribute together with excellent company talking cricket then it was time to be off to the cricket again.
Surrey marched on and on as the Somerset bowlers toiled away for the last two sessions of the day only enjoying the success of the occasional wicket. Likewise I was toiling away trying to obtain my “free” beer!. I slowly downed my eighth pint to qualify for my free pint which tasted the best of the day!. Disgraceful I know at my age, I should know better but it was my last opportunity of stocking up on English beer before my return to Cyprus, my expanding “beer gut” lies testament to that!. Surrey ended the day on 368 – 4. I took a somewhat staggered walk back to Taunton Railway Station for my train back to Bristol, cricket and beer over for another year.
Surrey’s Mark Stoneman and right getting my “Free” pint !
The match at Taunton was abandoned by an “Act of God” as Storm Bronagh blew away some of the covers allowing water to get onto the pitch.
Two enjoyable days of cricket mostly watching Surrey’s Rory Burns bat, but at least he got his just rewards being captain of Surrey’s winning Championship team and being called up by England for the Sri Lanka tour in October.