Thursday 1st July 2021 – The T20 Vitality Blast – Old Trafford, Manchester
Sometimes thinking ahead pays off. The next leg of my T20 tour would see me transverse the Pennines, taking in two games in 24 hours. Planning ahead, tickets sorted and a room with a view at Old Trafford to watch the game, if I wanted from the balcony. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, as it seems, and not just once.
Lancashire CCC had made the fatal assumption that come 21st June, everything would be (red) rosey and we would be released from the months of restrictions. That meant welcoming back meaningful crowds to Old Trafford for the T20 games. I was one of those lucky spectators who would be able to enjoy a Thursday night game under lights against Worcestershire Rapids. And then I wasn’t. Boo Boris, Boo. The 4-week delay put pay to the fun and my tickets were taken away from me. But wait! A week later and there was hope. Lancashire had found a way to accommodate some of those who had bought tickets.
Whilst our original tickets had been cancelled, we could try to reapply at 10am on Thursday 24th June – first come, first served. I was ready, at 9:59am, hitting that F5 key and as if by magic on the stroke of 10am I got my tickets. Except they somehow managed to duplicate my order, meaning I had 2 x 2 lots of tickets in different areas of the ground. A minor detail. I was going to the ball.
Fast forward to 10pm, Wednesday 30th June. An email lands in my inbox, from Lancashire, marked URGENT, TICKET NEWS. It wasn’t good news. Due to events “beyond their control” my tickets had been cancelled again. The club were hugely apologetic and there was a sense that something or someone had screwed up for them to be cancelling tickets (the Twittersphere was awash with many others in the same boat). I would have been frustrated, annoyed, disappointed and angry but I still had my hotel room, with the balcony view. Not my first choice of where to watch the game from, but it would a) have my own personal toilet, b) I could bring my own food and drink and stuff it in the minibar, c) If I was bored I could watch the TV and d) I could watch the game whilst bouncing up and down on the bed.
I’d had the pleasure of staying at the hotel before when there had been a T20 game on. Back then you also had tickets to sit in one of the stands, but due to Covid and issues with the capacity, that wasn’t an option. But arriving mid-afternoon I was relieved to see with my own eyes that I hadn’t been allocated a room on the car park side. I’m not sure what was stopping you inviting a group of six into your room for the game – in fact it seemed that was exactly what a few other rooms had done.
It was a perfect night for cricket, with Lancashire winning the toss and deciding to bat. Finn Allen and Keaton Jennings put on fifty within the first five overs before the former was caught by Sodhi, the first of his three victims he caught out. Lancashire struggled to find consistency and as the innings entered its final third were only averaging six an over. However, a knock of 49 not out from 33 balls from Rob Jones saw them just sneak over the 150 mark to finish on 159/6.
Remember the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and how annoying the sound of the vuvuzela was? Eleven years on and someone in the crowd, just below the balcony, had found one and thought it would be a great idea to bring to the cricket. Their mates, not wanting to be left out, brought a rattle and a ridiculous mini trombone that sounded like a kazoo. Oh how everyone laughed around them. In a week where there had been a social media outrage about the return of the England band to Wembley I was disappointed that nobody removed these plastic instruments and stopped the tuneless attempts at being “wacky”.
I had faith in Worcestershire to chase the total down having seen them bat so well against Durham last week. But there was very little fight out there tonight. Wessels huffed and puffed to get 27, whilst Cox’s 36 was the glimmer of hope that there would be a run chase. Instead it was the Lancashire bowlers who won the game. Hartley’s 4-16 from his four and Saqib Mahmood’s 4-25 including clean bowling the final two batsmen in successive balls saw Worcestershire bowled out 44 runs short.
Whilst the ground cleared, the balcony crowds continued with their evenings, with random choruses of songs breaking out, reminding us what cricket will be like again…soon. The pandemic has been a nightmare for the clubs and I have every sympathy with Lancashire for the position they found themselves in. Some fans will be angry and disappointed with the club, but they have to comply with regulations or face stiff penalties. It is up to us, as fans to be part of the solution and not the problem and that sometimes means watching the game from a hotel room balcony, with beers chilling in the fridge and room service bringing hot food to order.