England November 28, 2012

The soggy pleasures of New Road

The choice of Greek gods and Atlantisophiles

Whilst Alastair Cook and chums are gallivanting around India in the sunshine, enjoying all the hospitable spin-bowling and complimentary batting collapses laid on for them by their generous hosts, the rest of us are sloshing about up to our ankles in the wet stuff.

Some bits are soggier than others. It will surprise almost no one to learn that New Road, Worcester has been transformed from sleepy picturesque amphitheatre of cricket dreams into an enormous muddy puddle and that the native species of wading bird known as "Solanki's Duck" has returned, splashing about in the covers and making its nest out of bits of sightscreen, discarded batting gloves and copies of the club accounts.

At least there's no danger of New Road losing the title of England's Prettiest Temporary Sports-Ground Situated Underwater Feature; a competition in which it consistently outscores the marshes of Old Trafford and the intricate network of puddles that appears whenever someone leaves the tap running in the gents at the Banks' Stadium, Walsall.

This is the fifth flooding in the last half-decade, an impressive strike rate which should also see New Road move up the list of Most Often Underwater Sporting Venues, although it is unlikely to overtake the Marco Water Polo Arena in Venice or the Atlas Velodrome, Atlantis, regarded by many as the Don Bradman of watery sports locations.

Legend has it that this part of the world was the favourite holiday retreat of the god Poseidon. According to Herodotus, after a hard year spent capsizing the triremes of wandering Greek warriors, fixing the results of Olympic swimming events, and trying to teach the seahorses to perform dressage, old fish face liked to spend his downtime splashing about in the tranquil Worcester waters for a week or two every summer.

So why did the Victorians build a cricket ground on such a famously damp spot? It was a mistake that the Normans would not have made. They may have had an unsophisticated attitude towards sewage disposal, but they made a point of putting their most important buildings on the top of hills. If William the Conqueror had just once experienced the thrill of reverse-sweeping an opponent for six off the last ball of the match, Worcestershire would now be playing their cricket at altitude, surrounded by high stone walls, secure against floods, arrows, knights on horseback and marauding dragons.

Still, this is a commercial age and the club are making the best of it. The hotel they are constructing (on stilts, presumably) will offer spectacular lakeside views and the attached Steve O'Shaughnessy Seafood Eaterie will feature fish caught extremely locally by members of the second XI. Activities including raft-building and mud-snorkelling will be available, dependant on rainfall, and all guests get to take away a complimentary jam jar of sediment and murky water to remind them of their time at Europe's leading aquatic cricket centre.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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