Yorkshire CCC v Hampshire: Scarborough gets ready to prove its vital future role in the domestic game

WHERE WILL Scarborough fit into cricket’s new landscape?

The question seems pertinent – urgent, even – as Yorkshire make a quickfire return to North Marine Road.

A fortnight after their last game there, against leaders Surrey, Yorkshire play the second of their two annual County Championship matches at the seaside ground.

This time, second-placed Hampshire are the visitors, with Yorkshire having left out of their 13-man squad the West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who had been supposed to make his final appearance but had struggled in his previous two, with fellow pace men Ben Coad and captain Steve Patterson both included after injury.

KEEP IT: Spectators look on at Scarborough during the match between Yorkshire and Surrey. Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com

But beyond the dry details of squad selection and the obvious need for Championship points, with fifth-placed Yorkshire requiring a good result to avoid the possibility of going into the final block of four games in September looking over their shoulder, is the pressing question of Scarborough’s place in the cricketing firmament, along with that of county outgrounds up and down the land.

For it will not have escaped your notice that there has been much talk lately of reducing the number of Championship games per county from 14 to 10; ergo, they would each have five home games in future instead of seven.

At present, Scarborough has two four-day fixtures as part of a long-standing staging agreement with Yorkshire, with Headingley hosting the other five.

Scarborough also has two one-day games each season, giving it 10 days of Yorkshire cricket each year, with the One-Day Cup also potentially under threat going forward given that the 50-over game is being cannibalised globally by T20; witness Ben Stokes’s retirement from ODI cricket last week to concentrate on Tests and T20 amid what he branded an “unsustainable” schedule.

Yorkshire's Adam Lyth and George Hill walk out to open the batting against Surrey at Scarborough earlier this month. Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com

But has anyone stopped to consider the effect that such changes to the county schedule could have on Scarborough and outgrounds per se?

Scarborough’s staging deal with Yorkshire contains the proviso that its parameters could be changed pending any alterations to the county structure, but while the England and Wales Cricket Board seemingly prepare to ride roughshod over Championship cricket (again), it is absolutely imperative that Scarborough and its outground brethren are prized and protected as much as possible.

Or, to put it another way, that any reduction in Championship cricket, or changes to the 50-over Cup, must not impact on the amount/quality of cricket played at outgrounds, which rely on the income to sustain – certainly in Scarborough’s case – the outstanding services they routinely provide.

This is also a matter of great significance for the town of Scarborough, with Yorkshire cricket at North Marine Road worth a whopping £5m a year to the local economy, benefitting innumerable businesses.

At a time when the ECB is making a great play about the need for diversity, it should not be forgotten that diversity is also important in geographical terms, helping ensure that the game is played and enjoyed as widely as possible.

Scarborough, of course, is a magical place.

Ask the average Yorkshire supporter whether he or she enjoys going to “Scarbados” and the reply is likely to be along the line of: “Are you kidding me?”

It is a timeless ground, soaked in tradition, but it is also a forward-thinking one with big ambitions – witness the ongoing stadium improvements – and it receives, and is very grateful for, the support of such as Scarborough Council.

North Marine Road continues to get an awful lot right – not least the quality of pitches prepared by groundsman John Dodds and his team, which are as good and competitive as anywhere in the country.

Scarborough knows it must look to the future.

There are hopes for more women’s cricket (could it become something of a centre for women’s cricket?) and the desire for more representative matches such as Lions games.

Scarborough has international as well as local appeal.

This week’s match against Hampshire should remind everyone – not least the officials at Headingley – of the importance of making sure they keep Scarborough at the front and centre of English cricket.

It might not be possible to resist the winds of change blowing through the game, most of them invidious, but it is possible to appreciate what an asset Scarborough is to Yorkshire CCC, the game in general, and to champion and conserve it for future generations.

Yorkshire (from): Bess, Coad, Fraine, Hill, Kohler-Cadmore, Luxton, Lyth, Patterson (captain), Revis, Shutt, Tattersall, Thompson, Waite.