My Trent Bridge cricket-watching companion John is a bit of a wag. Well, for a Yorkshireman. Not content with booking us seats for the alcohol-free Fox Stand for day two of England v New Zealand – he claims the conversation with the booking office when told that was all was left is for adult ears only – he decided to play the cruellest trick that you can on a journalist.
Sticking his rather old-fashioned headphones on to yes, let it be said, a rather old-fashioned head, and attaching them to an even more old-fashioned transistor radio on which he pretended to be listening to the Test Match Special commentary – John is so ancient he’s struggling to connect with the MP3 generation – he commenced the day’s play by relaying to me that Steve Bucknor had just been done for cocaine-abuse.
For a moment, his comment was the bait and I was the fish. “Really,” I replied, completely and far too easily hooked by his utterly convincing visage. Then the penny dropped. “You’re having me on,” I said, and, with quite remarkable speed, his visage cracked.
It was a disappointment, quite frankly; what cricket needs amid all these calls for the spirit of the game to be upheld – blimey, even Sky Sports News was having a Spirit of Cricket Day yesterday – is for a real off-field elite umpiring controversy involving sex, drugs or corruption, preferably all three. Surely, with the speed and regularity that they cross continents these days, there is scope for this.
To be fair, anyone who has watched Bucknor officiating over recent months would have fallen for John’s ruse. The look Monty Panesar gave the Jamaican official after being adjudged caught off bat and pad later that day suggested that the Sikh of Tweak for one believed he was on something psychedelic.
The possibility was increased when CMJ and Vic Marks started to muse on the sort of things the laid-back Bucknor thinks about as he ambles his way to square leg: “Maybe he’s dreaming about Montego Bay,” CMJ suggested, “or thinking about a few lines….of Wordsworth.”
That Monty decision aside, though, Bucknor was at his best during this Test, twice getting close calls against Aaron Redmond right, among others. But for a man who appears to have no cares in the world, he still manages to be remarkably aggravating with his determination to get off the field at the first sight of bad light.
In fact, you can imagine him pulling back the net curtains in his hotel bedroom in the morning, smiling broadly when he notices the cloud cover and ringing up the fourth umpire to tell him to keep an eye on the light meter while he slips back into bed for a few extra minutes’ shut-eye. Although it did not have a bearing on the outcome of the game, Bucknor was far too quick to take New Zealand off at around 5 o’clock on Friday. It felt like a sympathy vote for the tourists, who were being pulled apart by James Anderson.
But if there was one thing more annoying than that, it was the crowd’s soporific response to the decision. The Saga holiday-makers around us merely rummaged around in their bags for a magazine, dipped into their flasks, or drew another (admittedly rather good) sketch of the Trent Bridge Pavilion, while those accommodated in stands that allowed uninhibited access to the sauce were too bladdered to care what was going on. Crowds need to be a bit more pro-active. In England, they pay well over the odds for a day of Test cricket and should be outraged when mean-spirited officials – and negative players – try to do them out of some.
Still, on a positive note, it meant an early arrival at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Britain’s oldest pub, carved into the hill and sandstone caves beneath Nottingham Castle and a draw for cricket celebs far and wide. First we spotted Bumble, who posed for photographs with six lads wearing masks representing the Sky commentary team before joining Jeremy Coney for a bevvy. Then, Darrell Hair, resplendent in black silk shirt and matching trousers, turned up. He slipped almost unnoticed into a dark cove alongside some friends – no doubt using his light meter to find his way through the gloomy interior.