Clouds gather over Tunbridge Wells
Worcestershire 48 for 0 trail Kent 258 by 210 runs
Cricket supporters had to be satisfied with short commons on the second day of this game at Tunbridge Wells. Play began a quarter of an hour late and only 14.1 overs were possible before the rain set in.
Despite the sleepless vigilance of umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Steve O'Shaughnessy - a restart was scheduled for 1.50pm, only to be scuppered by the wet stuff - that was it for the day. Not that the crowd's thin ration of cricket was uneventful. Openers Daryl Mitchell and Matt Pardoe played some attractive strokes in their unbroken 48-run stand until Robbie Joseph, perhaps miffed at being passed over for the new ball in favour of Darren Stevens' steady medium, sent down a fiery spell from the Railway End.
In his 19 balls, Joseph saw wicketkeeper Sam Billings drop a regulation chance off Pardoe when the opener was on 20 and also nailed Mitchell on the helmet, necessitating running repairs just prior to the rain. It was good, competitive stuff and offered hope that the final two days of this match will be well worth the watching.
All the same, the loss of the vast majority of play was a blow to officials of the local club and a kick in the face for the volunteers and other workers whose labour enables an outground match to be staged at all.
For if ever a venue needed a sunny Bank Holiday and a decent crowd, it was Tunbridge Wells this year. The decision of the local borough council to withdraw the funding for a thousand-seater temporary stand prompted Kent not to stage any limited-overs games at the Nevill Ground in 2014, and other places are staking claims to host any matches that are taken away from Canterbury.
In an admirably frank article in the Match Guide for this game, Jamie Clifford, Kent's chief executive, expressed the hope that there will be a "full week of five or six days' cricket" at the ground in 2015 but he then made it clear that "the immediate future of the Tunbridge Wells week does need to be sorted out very soon".
Kent have said that they hope to have a number of games at Beckenham next year. Folkestone would like to host matches at some point in the future and the county is also looking at staging fixtures at The Mote in Maidstone.
For all the 113-year history of its festival, for all the splendour of its setting, for all its rhododendrons, Tunbridge Wells no longer has a secure place in the county's schedule. While Clifford hopes that Kent never has to break its long relationship with the Nevill, his statement also implies that it might come to that.