Friday 25th June 2021 – The Vitality T20 Blast – New Road, Worcester
In the run up to the latest stop on the UK Cricketing tour, a number of cricket fans I spoke to wished me luck about visiting New Road. “It will be under a foot of water – it is June after all” was a common thread and looking at the location of the ground on the map, you could see how any rise in the water level of the Severn, would cause problems. But my main concerns was actually being able to be in the ground to watch the game in the first place, whether there were swans on the boundary or not.
I’d booked tickets prior to the delay in restrictions being lifted, and with just a 4,000 capacity at New Road, they have to trim the number that could be present significantly. Plan B came into effect with a room secured at the Premier Inn overlooking the ground – it was a more expensive option but we would be guaranteed a view, albeit one in silence, of the game.
I’m sure we have all been there before when we have applied for a job and not got it, with our “details being kept on record for the future”. Whilst I have never been called back for an interview, let alone a role in those circumstances, hats off to Worcestershire CCC who sent me an email 24 hours before the game offering me tickets to the game as not all members had taken up their options. “Two please” I replied and within an hour, I had confirmation of four. Generous people in the ticket office at New Road. It proved harder to return two than buy two but we got their eventually.
Despite only being 30 miles from Edgbaston by road, this was a million miles away in terms of atmosphere. Whilst the young crowd in Birmingham were distracted by the events on the pitch from their night out, the fans watching this were engrossed by a very tight game that went to the final over.
New Road’s location next to the Severn and in the shadow of the magnificent cathedral on the opposite side of the river is picture postcard-esque, and on checking in to our room, we were offered a superb view, with the only concern some looming grey clouds and a forecast that threatened rain by 8pm. With no floodlights at the ground it was a 5.30pm start, which meant the light could become an issue for the team batting second.
That turned out to be Worcestershire as the visitors won the toss and decided to bat first. In a similar vein to Edgbaston, Worcestershire had an online ordering system for food and drink. You scanned a QR code, added your location and ordered then in theory the food and drink was delivered to your seat by what can only be described as runners, who had to bring the items from the far side of the ground. They seemed to spend most of their time apologising for delays in getting orders to customers, or correcting errors. Nobody particularly minded but it is a system that may need some refinement when bigger crowds can attend.
Durham started confidently, with Clark hitting a six and a four before being the first wicket down, which brought Ben Stokes to the crease. It is rare for domestic crowds to see the big-name England players in the domestic game these days with so many international matches being played and on a night when England’s T20 side were in action down in Cardiff, Stokes was looking at giving the selectors a reminder of his ability in the short-over game. Alas, he never really got going, scoring 20 off 20 balls including one big six, but was caught at midwicket when he mistimed a drive from the bowling of Barnard.
Durham scored and lost wickets in a consistent manner, never really threatening to push through the 200 barrier, finishing on 178-8. The question was whether we would see a conclusion with rain forecast for 8pm.
Worcestershire lost Wessels in the second over for just two, bringing Jake Libby to the crease to partner Brett D’Olivera and the two made short-shrift of the Durham attack. The two kept the run rate under control, never really giving away chances and put on a partnership of 145 in 15 overs, before D’Olly dollied one up to Carse to head back to the pavilion having scored an excellent 67 off 49 balls.
The crowd, having been more sedate than that at Edgbaston were on the edge of their seats in the final few overs and all of a sudden we had a pitch invader who ran onto the outfield, whipped his top off, ran back, jumped over the fence and ran out of the ground, all before any stewards realised there was an issue.
With rain starting to fall we headed up to the hotel room to watch the end from there. It was going to be a tense last two overs with twenty runs required. However, Ben Cox smashed a six and a four, backing up the unbeaten Libby at the other end who finished on 78 not out. The winning runs, from the bat of Cox came with just three balls to spare as the rain started to fall.
Within minutes of the players leaving the pitch the groundsmen were frantically trying to put the covers on as the rain hammered down. Sometimes you ride your luck and things work in your favour as had been the case here. Our first visit to Worcester had seen us witness a very close encounter and stay dry. Couldn’t have asked for anything more.
More pictures from the evening can be found here.