Project Mobilisation continues! As I need to start building my cricket shirt collection back up again, I think I will be opting for my #TailendersOfTheWorldUniteAndTakeOver t-shirt for a while – and I bought a Bangladesh hat partly because it’s thanks to them that I got back into watching cricket properly, but also because they’re just generally wonderful.
Surrey vs. Gloucestershire – County Championship (day 1), The Oval
673 days after my last trip to a cricket ground, and I was finally back! As a Somerset fan, both Surrey & Gloucestershire are not exactly on my Christmas card list, but I opted for the lesser of the two evils and supported Surrey this time – made easier by them batting and their stand-in skipper Hashim Amla scoring a classy century. It felt so good to be back, especially as the weather turned just in time for the game: from horrendous downpours to glorious sunshine (and accidental sunburn on my right hand).
England vs. New Zealand – 1st Test (day 3 & 4), Lord’s
Initially I was due to go on day 1, but then Lord’s had to have a rethink when the government’s ‘roadmap’ was published; some new tickets went on sale a few days before the match started, so I gobbled up a ticket for day 3 – and then it chucked it down. As nice as it was to get six hours of fresh air, catching up on audiobooks, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Fortunately, I checked the website on the train home and discovered that for just a fiver more I could go back & sit in nearly the same spot on the Saturday, so without thinking I bought it – and what a great idea that was! I may not have been able to see Devon Conway’s double century, but I did get to see Rory Burns score a hundred. He played with great character and was ably partnered by Jimmy Anderson, who received such an amazing welcome as he came in to bat. I certainly got my money’s worth, as the final wicket went down and we headed out to bowl later on in the day. Pimm’s in hand and shielded from the glare of the sun: what a way to spend a Saturday evening!
Surrey vs. Somerset – County Championship (day 1 & 4), The Oval
Seven years after I last saw Somerset play – I decided to make the most of it. I could do the entirety of day 1, as it was a Sunday, and as it looked like it had been set up nicely for the end of the day I spent the afternoon of day 4 at the Oval as well. I had hoped to see Conway score big on day 1, but it wasn’t to be; James Hildreth rolling back the years and scoring a century was an excellent replacement though, especially as he’s been playing for the first team as long as I’ve been into the game. I was hoping Somerset might sneak a victory on the last day, as the pitch was turning & wickets had been tumbling from the word go, but neither team was really pushing for it (despite Surrey going 4 down) and an early finish was called at 5pm. So good to be able to see Somerset with my own eyes again, after being glued to their excellent livestreams.
Oval Invincibles women vs. Manchester Originals women – The Hundred, The Oval
There had been a lot of talk about this competition, as it controversially clogs up an already very busy domesetic schedule in the UK, so I thought I should be there for the very first match (a women’s game!) to see what it was all about. I think it’s definitely best to be in the crowd at something like this early on, as I don’t think I would have been as invested in the competition if I’d just watched it on TV; despite it not being full, the atmosphere was fantastic, and hearing kids really getting into it was worth the admission fee alone. Not too difficult to adapt, as the tweaks to overs, etc. were pretty self-explanatory – and just great to see the women’s game on as big a stage as the men’s for once.
England vs. India – 1st Test (day 1), Trent Bridge
My first visit to Trent Bridge! It’s about time… I also inadvertently managed to get a seat next to my parents, despite them booking a few days before me – so I wasn’t risking being isolated with an ‘interesting’ crowd. We were sat in what I named the Zoo Stand, as there were several groups of people dressed as various animals – the ones in our row included a rhino, and managed to get me on TV..! I had been so looking forward to this Test series, as I thought we stood a good chance of doing well; baffling to most of us as to why Root chose to bat, when it looked like a bowling morning and our batting line-up is not exactly stable. I almost started wishing us to lose wickets to put everyone out of their misery, in the hope we’d get a few quick dismissals before the close – the former happened, but sadly not the latter… A fun day’s play, nonetheless.
Somerset vs. Leicestershire – Royal London Cup, County Ground
Finally back at the County Ground! (I refuse to call it anything other than that.) In an ideal world I’ve have been at a Blast game prior to this, and so had the chance to see the full first XI in action, then watched this slightly less experienced outfit in the one-day cup – that was not to be, however. Somerset could definitely have done with a) winning the toss, and b) having talismanic skipper Ben Green back from COVID isolation. It was great to see George Bartlett return to form with a well-paced century, as well as debutant George Thomas hitting 75 (not to mention quickfire cameos from Marchant de Lange & stand-in skipper Josh Davey. Unfortunately, Taunton proved once again to be a tough ground on which to defend, with Lewis Hill scoring a hundred of his own, ably supported by Louis Kimber on 85 – Leicestershire ended up easing to victory with 5.2 overs to spare. It was definitely brilliant to be back at the County Ground though!
England vs. India – 2nd Test (day 5), Lord’s
After sitting at home scoring all of day 4, I simply couldn’t resist buying a 20 quid day 5 ticket – it definitely felt like something special could happen, but sadly it went in the wrong direction. It was all very exciting in the first few minutes, as England swiftly removed Pant and exposed India’s tail; nobody reckoned on Shami & Bumrah digging in and confidently taking on England’s bowlers. By lunch I had moved from the prospect of an England win to a slightly disappointing draw, but it couldn’t be that predictable, could it? The lights came on after lunch and, despite it brightening up later on in the afternoon, were kept on for the rest of the match – I don’t think the result would have been different had the conditions been changed once natural light was available, but I do reckon it might have gone to the last few overs instead of ending roughly half an hour early. Gutting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but it was quite an experience to be around the India fans for that final hour or so.
Oval Invincibles women vs. Birmingham Phoenix women – The Hundred (Eliminator), The Oval
I had been hoping for an all-neutral clash, especially as I’d seen the Oval women before, but I was pleased that Birmingham had qualified as I was keen to see Issy Wong bowling, after being impressed by her in previous games. It did seem as if Oval hadn’t quite reached par in their batting effort, posting 114-7, but their bowling was absolutely spot-on. At times the fielding in the women’s games has been a bit average, but it has definitely improved over the course of the tournament and hit great heights when the Invincibles took to the field. An excellent team display, and a thoroughly enjoyable match.
Southern Brave men vs. Trent Rockets men – The Hundred (Eliminator), The Oval
My dream clash would have been Birmingham Phoenix against Trent Rockets, purely for the players involved (I’d have loved to have seen Liam Livingstone attempt to clear one of the stands at The Oval!), but this neutral face-off was the next best thing. As a Somerset supporter, I’ve been in no-man’s land with this franchise system, but slightly gravitated towards the Lewis Gregory-led Rockets (also featuring de Lange, for the most part) – so this was a rather chastening evening. Not being able to bowl first definitely affected them, but overall they were thoroughly outclassed by the Braves in almost every way. I wasn’t unhappy that it finished a bit early, purely for transport reasons, but it was a real shame that the match wasn’t more competitive. One positive from an England perspective, however, was the way in which James Vince took Rashid Khan apart – book him in for the T20 World Cup, now!