Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Nottinghamshire 268 for 2 (Duckett 116, Slater 111*) v Lancashire
It was a dreich day, the sort which finds cricketers drawing back their hotel curtains to see whether passing cars have their windscreen wipers flapping. Rain did not appear to be falling but the air was damp and the heavy murk seemed certain to prevent a prompt start. Nottingham was quiet; as quiet as Aberystwyth on a Sunday morning in the 1960s, when the sober-suited diaconate walked to chapel, certain of their positions in this world and their places in the next one.
At half-past ten groundstaff began removing sheeting from the square, although that signified nothing except the absence of rain. Some players strolled over to the indoor nets while others, including Luke Fletcher, who is not playing in this game, bowled a few balls. Workouts do not come any gentler. "Start delayed," declared Trent Bridge's plush scoreboard, although everyone knew that already and one's attention was taken more by the board's tickertape gadgetry than the news it conveyed. No other sport involves this amount of waiting around; a football or rugby match takes place or it doesn't. Abandonments are very rare and no one suggests to players in such games that they might fit in ten minutes later on if the weather improves. Yet cricketers turn up at grounds with the hard-won knowledge that while no play is probable they must prepare as though something can be salvaged.
By midday the whole square was covered again and the umpires had decided an early lunch would be taken, followed by an inspection at one o'clock. The latter event seemed far more likely to be the prelude to abandonment than the first sign cricket might be possible. On most days in summer the view from the top of the Radcliffe Road Stand at Trent Bridge stretches far into the surrounding countryside and the former pit villages. Today visibility was no more than 500 yards and everywhere was freighted by cloud. Most cars on Melton and Loughborough Roads had their headlights on. But for the leaves it could have been a mild November afternoon.
Anyone looking out from the press box at 12.45pm would have seen nobody at all on the ground. One missed the cheerily deranged optimists under their odd umbrellas, patiently waiting for nothing whatsoever to happen and reading their Playfairs until some announcement interrupted their strange reveries. As far as one could see, any inspection was of the most cursory variety: "It is still raining? "Yes", "We'll stay here, then."
There are, of course, many worse grounds in which to sigh away Sunday than Trent Bridge and many duller places in which to do so than Nottingham. The city contains reminders of its vibrant manufacturing history and the names of famous firms are still blazoned from warehouses, even if those cavernous interiors are being converted into snazzy apartments for the chillingly aspirational. One such is Hickings on London Road. This was a great textile factory in the 20th century, although somewhat ironically, the ground floor of the site is now the location for Hooters, a themed restaurant where, so one understands, the provision of ample clothing is less of a priority.
The general view is that we will all need a few waterproof layers before this game is done. Just after half-past one the staff began to peg down all the covers as though they knew the really rough weather was on its way. "Start delayed," insisted the scoreboard, obstinate in its adherence to the party line. At 2.15pm the umpires walked on to the outfield from one corner of the field and the groundstaff advanced to meet them from the opposite corner. One might have thought a duel was about to commence, especially so when the group was eventually joined by James Whitaker, the match referee. But the group stood around for ten minutes and Whitaker practised his forward defensive shot. The problem, one supposed, was that while the ground was hardly drying at all and the forecast was ghastly, it was not raining at the moment. It was decided to hold another inspection at 3.15pm, then another at 4pm, and yet one more at 4.30pm. Everyone did their best.
Over seven hours after the cricketers had arrived at Trent Bridge play was abandoned. It was darker than it had been all day and a group of Lancashire's staff marked the occasion by lapping the ground a few times. The weather forecast for the next two days is worse than it was this morning. Yet two months ago, when England's cricket grounds wore heavy padlocks, many of us would have given a great deal to sit in a deserted press box on a wet afternoon. And even now, thousands of supporters long for the moment when they can return to these places, the other homes where they have spent much of every summer until this one.