FOR cricket enthusiasts, taking in a day or two’s play at an outground can be one of summer’s great pleasures.
Arundel, Cheltenham and, of course, our very own North Marine Road in Scarborough are just three venues away from headquarters that supporters relish the prospect of visiting.
Chesterfield’s Queen’s Park usually falls into the same category with the pavilion that stands at one end of the tree-lined, sloping ground bringing a sense of Victorian charm to a scene that seems the very epitome of the English cricket season.
The past couple of days, however, have been a different story with this wettest of summers having literally brought to life the ‘Lake End’ that sits at the bottom end of a ground that first hosted county cricket in 1898.
From the vantage point of the pavilion balcony yesterday morning as a second consecutive day’s play was lost to the wet weather, it was clear green turf was at a premium as the puddles that had started forming the previous evening continued to run into each other.
As the rain continued to pour, the scene was a desolate one and totally in keeping with a season that has seen neither bat nor ball be able to hold sway over the elements for more than a couple of days at a time.
Looking out across the sodden outfield, it was difficult to believe any action will be possible today even though the umpires have told both captains that they will do their utmost to resume play, even if for just a couple of hours, due to the potential importance of bonus points in the Division Two promotion race.
With Yorkshire having got themselves into a promising position by the end of the opening day by reducing their hosts to 135-7 in reply to 219 all out, the rain has been unfortunate.
No-one can, of course, do anything about the weather and in that respect the only thing first-team coach Jason Gillespie and his players have been able to do is shrug their shoulders.
Where, however, the White Rose county do deserve some sympathy is that had this week’s Championship encounter been played at Derby then chances are at least a few hours of cricket would have been possible on the second day when the rain stopped at 10.30am but play was abandoned shortly after due to the waterlogged outfield at Chesterfield, which is a ground renowned for drying slowly.
Certainly, captain Andrew Gale, who is expected to return to action in tomorrow’s CB40 encounter with Derbyshire after a month out with a hip injury, would like to see Yorkshire play at less outgrounds due to the problems that rain can cause.
“We are in a promising position in terms of our season,” said Gale, who was leading the side when just 34 overs were possible in four days against Glamorgan earlier this summer after the game had been switched from the Welsh county’s Cardiff headquarters to Colwyn Bay.
“But I just hope this weather doesn’t dampen down our chances as, at the moment, it is holding us back.
“Derbyshire were 25 points ahead before this match but they have had more days of cricket and played on more seamer-friendly pitches. That has helped them finish games inside three days, meaning the weather hasn’t been that much of a factor.
“We have played quite a lot of home games and the pitch at Headingley is so good that it can be hard work to get a result in four days, even if the weather stays fine.
“You have to play really good cricket all the way through to get a result.
“Having the second day at Chesterfield wiped out was not too bad as the position of the game with 17 wickets having fallen on the first day meant it was at a point where you would expect it to be after two days.
“But losing the third day and there being big doubts about a possible delayed start (today) means there won’t be a result and that is disappointing.
“One of the most disappointing aspects for me is other counties tend to want to play us at their outgrounds because they know we will bring a good following.
“The drainage at the outgrounds is not as good as the main ones and that means it takes longer for the pitch to dry out. It is the same with the facilities for dealing with rain and mopping it up.
“No disrespect to Chesterfield, but had we been playing at Derby then I am sure we would have managed to get some cricket in on the second day.
“Overnight rain caused the problems but we had the same rain in Leeds and I was able to do some running and fielding work out on the Headingley pitch on Thursday morning because it had dried out by 10am.
“That was down to Headingley’s drainage being unbelievably good.
“It was the same with Colwyn Bay. I know we had relentless rain but if the game had been at Cardiff then I feel we would have got more cricket in.
“Once the rain stops at a major ground, you are usually on quite quickly.
“We are in a good position but we have not achieved anything yet. We want to get to finals day in the Twenty20 and, more than anything else, we have to get out of Division Two. I just hope the weather can improve and soon.”