England v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day June 11, 2004

Sports casual v sports replica



The sports casual look gets an airing at Trent Bridge © Del Joseph

In the official programme for the third Test, David Collier, Nottinghamshire's chief executive, welcomed all by writing: "I hope you enjoy the warm and friendly atmosphere for which Trent Bridge has become world-renowned." Considering that the last, and only, time I was here was to cover the prestigious 2001 Under-15 Lord's Taverners final between Eton College and Little Lever School, everything was on a much grander scale.

Rather than a handful of snotty schoolchildren calling me names, the ground was instead packed with a mix of suave seniors and shiny-shirted supporters. Indeed, there were two types of cricket followers on show today. As the majority of them lined up in the taxi queue at Nottingham station, there was a clear divide between the sports-casual crowd, and the sports-replica rabble.

On the one hand you had the blazers, loafers, slacks and panamas, complete with clip-on summer spectacles that would make Alan Partridge proud. On the other, there were the scores of England football shirts and caps, piling into the cabs as if they were off to the football grounds which lie only a Cairns clout away from Trent Bridge. But, as the ECB chairman, David Morgan, promised in his programme notes, there was no threat of the England team being expelled from this particular competition.

With most of the noise coming from the William Clarke Stand, the colourful crowd were generous in their applause for both sides. The excited anticipation as Graham Thorpe wobbled worryingly under Cairns's sliced drive, followed by a raucous roar as he clung on to the chance was impressive, but so too was the hearty applause which greeted Scott Styris's century.

In between the morning highlights, however, the noisier spectators in the stand passed the time by throwing plastic cricket balls at each other. Enter the stewards, who promptly confiscated a couple of them, like tetchy teachers. But the naughty boys didn't hesitate in answering back: "Two pounds an hour, two pounds an hour, you earn two pounds an hour," they chanted. Well, they were certainly being made to work hard for their two quid, or however much they really earn.

Everything was much more civilised in the Parr Stand (probably because you can't take any alcohol into it) and on behind the pavilion, round to the new Fox Road Stand, which has what looks like a giant elongated slip cradle balanced on top of it. It sounds a bit odd, but the blend of new and old, such as the pavilion balconies, complete with the hanging baskets for each team, does make for a cracking venue.

So do the numerous food-and-drink stands dotted around the outer ring of the ground, which were all kept busy throughout the morning. As good as they are, though, they can't compete with the world-renowned Trent Bridge Inn behind the Clarke Stand. Even though England were doing their best to finish off New Zealand's first innings at the time, the tables outside were still full of happy customers enjoying their day out.

No wonder Trent Bridge was recently nominated by The Wisden Cricketer as providing the best value, on and off the field, of any ground in England - something else which the chairman was quick to point out.

Freddie Auld is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.