Walking to the first day of a Test is to share the excitement of the crowd and it was palpable. Crossing the railway bridge I saw English fans lagering up at 9-30 at Hooters pub. The crowd was now more numerous as we passed the first of Nottingham’s stadia: Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County the oldest club in the Football League founded in 1866. Over the Trent I could see the City Ground and next to it is Trent Bridge.
Trent Bridge is surprisingly compact which has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that the tightness creates a definite atmosphere and the combination of old and new stands a pleasing arena close to,the pitch. The disadvantages are that there is no concourse around the ground which makes walking rather uncomfortable as the passage-ways under the stand are narrowed by the queues for the toilet and bars. I was pleased with my seats in the Fox Road stand, a modern construction with a cantilevered roof. I was situated bang at square leg with excellent sight lines but the seat itself was hard plastic and legroom constricted. However the worst feature, like with so many modern stands, was the inadequacy of the toilets. I suspect this is deliberate that, to use a horrible phrase, they want to monetise the space with bars and food outlets, not non-generative revenue in urinals.
It was a brave decision of Alastair Cook to put the Aussies in but he has a much better record batting second. I have never witnessed such carnage in one opening over, let alone the first hour. You could not tear your eyes away and when I queued up for the toilet, I missed two overs … and of course two wickets. The bowling was lethal, the catching exemplary, but the Aussies batters’ technique woeful. In an hour, maybe less, we saw the Ashes won by England.
By 5-30 the discomfort of the hard seat and the growing raucousness of the crowd persuaded me to leave. I watched the remaining hour in the hotel bar with a cold Leffe. As I did so, I reflected not just on a day that will go down as the most memorable in Ashes history but on our perennial debate of attendance or not. On one hand, I could say I was there and boast about this for ever more and savour the excitement of Stokes’ catch in real time though my neighbour said it was too quick for him to take it in, and enjoyed the atmosphere with the Barmy Army in full voice. On the other, I must have spent an hour queuing for the toilet and, because I only drank water, was detached from the alcoholic revelry and enjoyed the quietude of the bar with pit stops nearby for a comfort break
Daffers delayed her start to avoid dairy duties and like the nation was transfixed by the morning play. She could not tear herself her away from her favourite choirboy at the crease so joined us dinner at Petit Paris. Whilst in repertory at Nottingham Playhouse, where she played Cordelia to Michael Gambon’s King Lear, it was a restaurant the cast used. She recalled playing her shoe over Michael Gambon’s foot only to be told he batted for the other side. This set her off onto, as she put it, nights with Knights of the theatre and I have to confess that, whilst partaking of the superb gigot of lamb, my mind wandered on whether there is any way the Aussies can save the Ashes. Their best hope is that England bat too long and they can defend 5 sessions. Given their brittleness of morale and technique this is most unlikely. A more likely scenario is England,who are scoring briskly with Joe Root looking imperious, and still have Josh Buttler, Mooen Ali and Broad to come can score another 150-200 swiftly and the game will be all over by Saturday lunchtime. The little urn is coming home ..