Derbyshire's country charm
After reading Mark Nicholas in the Wisden Cricketer argue that Derbyshire was a team that “exists for no obviously justifiable reason”, I was interested to see the county in action in Australia’s tour match. The Australian team was staying in Nottingham, 15 minutes away, which didn’t fill me with confidence about Derby’s hospitality.
But over the past two days I’ve come to really like the Derby county ground. Having only experienced the bigger venues around England – Lord’s, Old Trafford, The Oval etc - here at last was one that felt like the county ovals I'd always imagined.
Back home in Australia, state cricket is nearly always played in the major Test venues and there are few more disheartening sights than an almost empty MCG on a Sheffield Shield day. I always envisaged county cricket being played at village-style venues where the locals could get close the action.
In that sense, Derby hasn’t disappointed. Metres from the boundary fence, there are stands selling everything from locally made Bakewell tart flavoured ice-cream, to hearty pasties, to pick’n’mix confectionery, to books - not just old cricket books but also secondhand thrillers by the likes of Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth.
On the hill at the north end of the ground, numerous cricket matches were in action throughout the two days. In the main food cabin, locals were discussing their team. Would Australia ever again pick Derbyshire’s adopted captain Chris Rogers? How will the county side perform in the next few years?
It has felt a bit like a country show, except that, thankfully, there are no tacky rides. Most importantly, it has felt local. Intimate. On the first morning, Doug Bollinger could stand in the crowd watching the action without being hassled by drunken idiots.
One young lad wore a cricket ball to the head while the Australians were practising, the victim of a stray bounce that landed in the crowd. But he was happy to be given a tour of the Australian change-rooms, a signed ball, and a story he’ll tell for the rest of his life.
Most impressive has been the size of the crowds. On the first day 3,100 turned up and there was a similar number on the second day. Perhaps I’m seeing it through rose-tinted glasses; I haven’t been to Championship games day in, day out. But it would be a massive shame if Derbyshire disappeared from the county circuit.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here