Tuesday 27th July 2021 – The Royal London Cup – Guildford Cricket Club, Guildford
I don’t have anything per se against The Hundred. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Oval last week for the opening game in the men’s competition as too did my youngest daughter. Will that make her take up the game or start to come to more games? Nope, in the same way that going to watch a film at the cinema doesn’t inspire her to be an actress or go and watch movies every day. It’s entertaining and the game on TV last night featuring Trent Rockets and Northern Superchargers was enlightened not just because of the run chase, but because of the misfortune of a major player potentially costing his team the game.
But I do object to it demeaning the importance of the domestic game. It shouldn’t be at the expense of other games or the ability for the counties to field their strongest team. The League Cup, and to some extent the FA Cup, in football is derided by managers who field weakened teams. Clubs can try to promote their games as Hollywood blockbusters but they only serve to give fans who normally can’t get a sniff of a ticket the opportunity to attend and see squad players who rarely will feature in other competitions.
The Royal London Cup is in danger of being sidelined by the focus on The Hundred. Yet if the expensive PR companies with the silly names stopped and looked at the quality and excitement already on offer in the county game, I’m sure their PowerPoint slide headline would be “let’s not reinvent the wheel”.
Surrey’s trip out of the capital took them to Guildford for their second game in the tournament and the opportunity to sample some out ground cricket. Woodbridge Road is on one of the main routes into the town centre, a ten minute walk from the station. It’s not difficult to find when you get off the train – just follow the army of fans with backpacks.
It’s white plastic picnic chair city once you get in the ground, with some fans getting in from 9am to secure the best spots. A noble effort especially when the weather forecast gave a 60%+ chance of rain for the whole day. But we started on time, with Surrey batting first.
It was a slow start, with Surrey missing the fire power of Jason Roy and Will Jacks. They lost Amla for 14, caught behind, with the score on 21, bring Ryan Patel to the crease. Three overs later and the rain started falling, sending umpires, players and fans scattering for cover with the score at 29/1 after 8 overs. Alas, there’s little of the latter in the ground and like many, I headed for the pub.
The interruption was 3 hours in total, which saw the game reduced to 30 overs a side. Plenty of time for a couple of beers, a massive mixed grill and my first completed Times crossword in a decade. Some fans had not returned, whilst the hospitality marquees were in full swing, none more so than the Mayor of Guildford’s one where the tanned town official with the Ratner’s chain was entertaining the great and good of Surrey’s suburban high rollers.
With just twenty two overs to play, Ryan Patel decided it was time for a bit of T20/The Hundred batting. He ripped into the Notts attack and no fans, whether sitting around the boundary or in the marquees, were safe. He reached fifty in 30 balls, his 100 in 59 balls and finally fell for 131 in just 70 balls. His innings included 10 sixes and 7 fours. How the Hundred would kill for an innings like that. The one amusing constant were the futile messages on the PA for spectators not to handle the ball if it went into the crowd, which was too hard to resist when the ball was flying towards them at 100 miles per hour.
Patel was finally removed, suffering clearly from cramp and if the Notts bowlers thought their hard work had been done, then Jamie Smith gave them a huge shot of realisation, smashing a half-century off just 16 balls including six fours, pushing the run rate up to nearly 14 an over. Surrey finished on 311-8 off 30 overs, having scored 282 runs off 22 overs.
The D/L target for Nottinghamshire was 300 – 10 an over. It seemed that any threat of rain had disappeared from the horizon and the weather wouldn’t be their saviour. However, they started brilliantly, with the openers reaching 71 off 6 overs before Budinger fell for 45 runs off 21 balls. Peter Trego lasted two balls, Hameed six and the visitors were in trouble. Ben Slater was their saviour it seemed, but he was running out of willing partners and the run rate started to slow. When he departed having scored 69, Notts still needed 136 off ten overs.
It looked all over but then Evison and wicketkeeper Schadenorf put on eighty in ten overs giving the smattering of Notts fans some hope. But eventually, they fell short by 33 runs. Surrey were worthy winners but Notts played their part in a fantastic advert for limited overs cricket.
Out ground games seem to have a special atmosphere, with another sell-out crowd that whose spirit wasn’t dampened by the rain. It was great to see so many youngsters there, getting as close as COVID-19 protocols would allow and on this basis, the future remains very bright for the county game.