There’s never been such a swift response to the Chancellor’s Budget. No sooner had George Osborne finished his speech on Wednesday afternoon than Nottinghamshire’s cricketers fled the country.
Pulling away from the flashbulbs and TV cameras congregated outside the Dixon Gates the reality of what lay in store quickly hit home.
194 days on from their epic title-winning performance at Old Trafford, the county side – (plus some very fortune hangers-on!) were heading for Abu Dhabi and the traditional curtain-raiser to the season which pits the reigning champions against the MCC.
Proving he likes his afternoon telly coach Paul Johnson joked to some of the younger lads, “You’ve all seen Coach Trip – behave yourself or you’ll be voted off!”
Mike Hendrick – another of the senior pro’s travelling – was heard to comment, “44 years in the game, I thought I’d done my fair share of tours before now!”
Amidst all the current razzmatazz and hoopla surrounding the ICC World Cup competition, a recurring image of the 1979 tournament is regularly shown on our screens.
Hendo – last man out for England in the Final – is shown grabbing one of the stumps. I asked him what happened to it. “I kept that stump - and a few others for years afterwards”, he said. “Then I came home one day and the kids were playing cricket in the garden with my souvenir stumps as the wickets- and they’d knocked them in with a hammer!”
The outbound journey was fairly uneventful. Planned to the nth degree over the last four months, everything went smoothly despite a flight-path which took us over such scenic outposts as Krakow in Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and then a direct line along the Tigris River high above Iraq’s Kirkup, Mosel, Baghdad and Basra!
As day broke we descended into the capital of the United Arab Emirates and bar the odd bag search at customs, our party was allowed in.
A swift transfer to our rather lavish base at Yas Island followed. Set above a Grand Prix circuit and a marina we were immediately alerted to the fact that the hotel would be ‘quite full’ and ‘fairly noisy’ for the next few days as the area was playing host to the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show and the World Touring Cars Grand Prix!
Breakfast was ready and waiting for us – and included, amongst the many splendid alternatives, chicken sausages and veal bacon. One of the party enquired if camel was a delicacy out here, to which scorer Roger Marshall responded, “If it is, they can either like it, or hump it!”
A day of rest beckons before the squad visit the imposing Sheikh Zayed Stadium for the first time on Thursday evening, to practice under floodlights with the newly-designed pink Kookaburra ball which will be used for the 4-day fixture which begins on Sunday.
Dave Bracegirdle will be providing live ball-by-ball commentary of Nottinghamshire v MCC for BBC Radio Nottingham