“A change is as good as a rest”, they say, so I’m looking forward to spending the next few days watching Nottinghamshire try and get back to winning ways against Kent at Tunbridge Wells.
After so many home fixtures already this season any road trip is one to be savoured but I’m particularly delighted to be heading off for my first visit to the Nevill Ground to cover the match for BBC Radio Nottingham.
With the weather set fair this promises to be a thoroughly enjoyable few days, as Festival weeks are notorious for bringing new spectators to the sport and there is usually a general feel-good factor around little-used first class venues.
I can already sense that a pack of antihistamine tablets might be a must-take accessory though, as everyone who has been there before keeps telling me that “The rhododendrons will be in full bloom.”
I’m not a philistine folks (I’m Notts born and bred…!!) but I’d rather hear about the track, the media facilities and (especially) the lunching arrangements – instead of a bunch of flowers - but rest assured I’ll report back if the floral display lives up to it’s billing!
I’m also looking forward to seeing the famed ‘Pantiles’ – home of a spa and spring –as well as learning more about how the town got it’s ‘Royal’ prefix – if it’s good enough for Her Majesty…!
Homework is an essential part of any sports broadcaster’s life and my research ahead of this match tells me that Nottinghamshire last played at Tunbridge Wells in 1996.
Led by skipper Paul Johnson, now installed as Nottinghamshire’s Batting Coach, they experienced mixed fortunes – winning a one day encounter which was played during the middle of a championship match – although the White Horse county emerged victorious in the longer format.
Any visiting supporters to another match there between the two sides, some six years earlier (2-5 June 1990 – exactly 20 years ago), would have gorged themselves on the stroke-play on offer on the first day. With opener Chris Broad hitting a career best 227 not out (including a hundred before lunch) and Derek Randall notching a typically flamboyant 178, Notts reached 477-6 by the close. The pair had added 285 in just 51 overs for the fourth wicket.
That game ended in a draw so we have to go right back to 1985 for the last time we were victorious in a first class game at TW. On that occasion Kevin Saxelby’s ten victim haul (6-64 and 4-49) helped set up a 4 wicket success.
Returning to more recent times, the Nevill Ground has tended to produce results – though latterly it hasn’t been a lucky ground for Rob Key’s side – who have lost their last couple of 4 day fixtures there – although if you believe in ‘horses for courses’ Joe Denly will be the man to dismiss after his 123 against Essex twelve months ago and 149 against Somerset in 2008.
Although this will be a new ground for me, I have been to Kent’s county headquarters – the St Lawrence Ground at Canterbury - on a number of previous occasions and will always recall one visit with special affection.
Despatched to report on a 3 day fixture against the touring Pakistan side in 2001 I was left to look after my own sleeping arrangements.
Sources told me to try the hostelry just outside the ground (from fading memory it may be called the Bat and Ball). “Yes,” they confirmed, “one of our two rooms is still available.”
As it transpired, the other room had been taken by the late, great, David Shepherd, who was officiating at the match. It didn’t surprise me then – nor now – that the world’s best umpire was happy to rest his head in relatively humble surroundings. It was after all within walking distance and perfectly adequate.
It won’t come as a shock to anyone who knew him when I report that my co-guest was splendid company for a couple of hearty breakfasts, evening meals and accompanying Vimto’s and they were certainly enriched for me with an on-the-field perspective of just how good Saeed Anwar’s double hundred had been for the tourists.
Shep apart – my other memory of that match was Inzamam’s sudden inability to communicate. He gave me a perfectly coherent interview on the first evening yet by the third morning had apparently lost the use of the English language – and had to enlist a translator to tell that to the waiting press corps.
No doubt this coming weekend will produce another tale or two but I’ll gladly settle for nothing more exciting than a routine Notts victory. Going into the game on top of the table and with games in hand – plus the welcome return of David Hussey for his season debut my usual optimism is running on overload!
So, armed with SatNav, Piriton and guide book I’m off to visit ‘The Garden of England’ – wish me luck!
Dave Bracegirdle broadcasts for BBC Radio Nottingham and will provide ball-by-ball commentary on all four days of the match from Tunbridge Wells. Access his commentary via the cricket pages of BBC Sport or click on the commentary link at the top of the homepage during play.