As a rule I don’t do lists. I rarely click on anything that begins with “here’s five things we learned about….” I often think the idea we may not have worked those things out for ourselves is a strange one. And whose to say we didn’t know all five anyway? And why five? Why not seven? Or eight and a half?
The last few weeks I have been writing about outground experiences and have mentioned a few games in passing. But this week I am going to go into more detail about the best games I have seen at such locations. And for the record there are four of them. The best featured heavily in my chapter about the 2013 season. There’s a big clue for you.
Durham travelled to Chesterfield for a championship encounter with Derbyshire in July 2017. It was the third time they had met there in the championship. The first meeting in 1992 saw only one day of play, while Durham won there in 1994 by seven wickets after posting one of their highest totals.
And 2017 served up an entertaining game which had twists and turns all of the way through it. Imran Tahir made his debut for Derbyshire, becoming the third player to have represented six different county sides, including Marcus North, who played for both teams and the former Notts player Andy Carter, who also had a brief spell with Derbyshire.
The hosts batted first and made 368, with another debutant, former Durham player Gurjit Sandhu making a career-best 46 not out in a 10th wicket stand of 102 with Billy Godleman. It was Derbyshire’s highest 10th wicket stand against Durham. Godleman was the last man to go for 98.
It was a bitter-sweet moment for Durham, who were convinced Graham Clark had caught him for 10 the day before in the gully! But the batsman argued the ball didn’t carry, as he often does and got the benefit of the doubt from umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Paul Pollard. The innings also saw Matt Critchley make 102 and Wayne Madsen make 54 after he’d been dropped on one in the slips by Michael Richardson.
The weather was perfect, which is just as well because we were in a marquee. It is a lovely setting for a cricket ground with a park at one end and a boating lake.
But I preferred to stay over the hill a few miles away in Matlock Bath which is a great place. It has plenty of character about it and is a real attraction. Popular with motor bikers and cyclists alike, because of its closeness to the beautiful Peak District. It also boasts some fine places to eat and has a promenade, even though it is miles from the coast.
Cable cars hang above the river. They are a means to reaching the Heights of Abraham tourist attraction at the top of the hill which overlooks the town. But they give a real alpine feel to the place. Chesterfield is only about a 20-minute drive away but most of the hotels there were already booked up by the time I finalised my plans. And the drive over the tops each morning was a pleasant one.
Durham got off to a good start. Cameron Steel and Michael Richardson put on 52 before Steel was run out for 21. Richardson then added 67 for the second wicket with Jack Burnham before Burnham was bowled for 35 by Imran Tahir. Teenager Hamidullah Qadri then bowled Richardson for 64.
Suddenly they were in trouble at 163-6 and again at 205-8. But a spirited fight from Paul Coughlin saw him make 73 as he put on 90 for the ninth wicket with Barry McCarthy. That was Durham’s best ninth wicket stand against Derbyshire but they were all out for 301 and a deficit of 67. Tahir, who would later play for Durham, took 5-110 and Gurjit Sandhu 3-60.
Derbyshire’s second innings included 108 from Alex Hughes but they were dismissed cheaply for 214. Godleman lost his off stump to Coughlin when he was on eight in the second innings. As he walked off the pitch a Durham supporter shouted: “You can’t complain about that one, can you?” We could hear it in our commentary position. “Billy doesn’t care” came the reply from my BBC Radio Derby colleague Dave Fletcher. “Billy never cares.” That’s stayed with me since and is regularly brought up when the sides meet.
Despite talk of the Derbyshire spinners having a field day on the final day it wasn’t to be. Chasing 282, Durham recovered from 158-4 to win by six wickets thanks to a fifth wicket stand of 127. It came in 21 overs from Jack Burnham and Ryan Pringle. Burnham was dropped three times on six, 36 and 41. He made 93 not out, while Pringle scored 62.
The two batsmen went after the bowlers in brutal fashion on a hot and humid afternoon. Durham won with 32.4 overs to go. Perhaps they were mindful of the conditions as dark thunder clouds started to form. Not long after we left the ground that afternoon the motorway came to a complete halt as flash floods turned the road into a canal. It was like the end of days.
Arundel is one of the nicest places in cricket. It’s in a parkland setting next to the medieval castle owned by The Duke of Norfolk. You can’t actually see the castle while in the ground. But it is a really nice place to watch cricket.
It is a lovely town as well and sits to the west of Brighton, just north of Littlehampton where the River Arun meets The English Channel. Slightly to the north is Glorious Goodwood and the South Downs.
Because the town is small you have to be quick to get a room. Some of the Sussex players book into B&Bs, or caravan parks. The two times I have been there I have stayed in a hotel on a roundabout on the A27. It is basically in a service station and could be anywhere. But it is cheap and cheerful and gets the job done. If you are an Alan Partridge fan, think Linton Travel Tavern!
The first time we were there it was full of people working on the nearby Goodwood Festival of Speed which was due to take place the following week.
The main road across the bottom of the country reaches a bottleneck in Arundel so it’s often busy with traffic. But as you come down the slope with the river wending its way in front of you the castle and Roman Catholic Cathedral fill the skyline. They sit on the top of an escarpment and provide quite a view. There aren’t many nice sights in the country.
In 2015 we were in for one hell of a game. Sussex put Durham in and the visitors made a decent 301, with 51 runs for Mark Stoneman and 81 from Gordon Muchall. Tim Linley took 5-63 with the ball, but Chris Rushworth then took 6-49 as Sussex were bowled out for 201. However, the pitch was clearly starting to misbehave and Durham were soon in trouble.
They were 13-4 after 4.4 overs in their second innings. Mark Stoneman, Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson were all out for ducks, while Paul Collingwood went for two. He later described the wicket as corrugated so if you got a ball on a downward indentation you were in trouble.
Steve Magoffin took all four wickets as he finished with 5-89, but he had 4-7 in his first four overs, with the first over a double wicket maiden!
There is a lovely festival feel at Arundel. The old pavilion is gorgeous. People sit around the edge of an embankment, or if lucky enough in the shade of a huge oak tree. And there are stalls too.
Former England wicketkeeper turned artist Jack Russell sells his pictures there. He joined us on air for commentary each day and is a great character. He does well with selling his pictures too. Our route south to the ground took us through some incredibly beautiful villages and not to mention past the odd polo club here and there.
In that area is also a place called Peper Harow. It’s near Godalming. I hadn’t heard of it but legend has it was one of the first places where a game of cricket was played to rules and regulations. Or laws as we now know them. That was in 1772. Behind our commentary gazebo was a stall selling bags, belts, socks, ties and other designer apparel from a company of the same name.
I bought a stylish bag for my electronic tablet. A birthday treat. Paul Collingwood did a great line in convincing his team-mates they all needed new wash bags. There wasn’t much left come the end of the game!
The Durham rescue began thanks to 74 from Scott Borthwick and 115 from Gordon Muchall who spent more than eight hours in the middle during the game and was on the field for most of it! There were also personal bests late on of 91 from John Hastings and 64 from Paul Coughlin.
It later emerged Coughlin was playing with a cracked back and after limping his way through the final day he wasn’t seen again that season! Durham’s second innings total of 413 meant Sussex were chasing 514, 59 more than they’d chased anywhere before.
Despite 108 from opener Luke Wells and 60 from Ben Brown, no-one else got past 50 and Sussex were all out for 335 as Scott Borthwick took 4-46 to help seal victory late on the final afternoon.
“There is no quick way to get to Southport. Once you leave the M6 it seems to take forever to get across those flat expanses of farmland towards the coast.”
In July 2016 Durham locked horns with Lancashire in Southport. It was the middle of a heatwave and those lucky enough to have an umbrella, or the shade of a tree, were extremely lucky indeed.
The fixture planners at the ECB did well to slot this game in and make it as inconvenient for everybody as they possibly could. Lancashire were at Leicester in a T20 the night before and Durham were at home to Northants. After those matches finished it was a race to see which team would arrive in Southport first.
And in the usual fashion The Highways Agency did their bit to complicate matters as well. It was nearly midnight by the time I found my way onto the A66 somewhere west of Barnard Castle, having taken a huge diversion around the lanes of County Durham because the A1 was closed at Scotch Corner.
I made it to the hotel somewhere between 2am and 2.30am. There is no quick way to get to Southport. Once you leave the M6 it seems to take forever to get across those flat expanses of farmland towards the coast. I was walking to my room when Lancashire’s Glen Chapple came wondering along the corridor. He was part of the coaching set-up by then. He’d left Grace Road the moment their match with Leicestershire was over. Or perhaps even a few minutes before! And he came by car.
I didn’t sleep that night. You never can when you have driven so late. And I kept mulling over how things would work in the ground the next day. The usual outground worries. It was somewhere after 3am I heard the Durham players coming down the hotel corridor.
For the record Durham had beaten Northants by six wickets with nine balls to go in Chester-le-Street. Lancashire made their highest score in a T20 against Leicestershire. But their 198-4 was in a losing cause as they went down by nine runs. Durham later lost in the final, in the Birmingham rain to Northants.
I can’t help but think of the irony of Lancashire supporters complaining about playing in Sedbergh in 2019. “It’s not even in Lancashire. It’s in Cumbria. And it used to be in Yorkshire!” I heard that one a few times on Twitter. From a minority, it has to be said. Yet Glen Chapple, the player many Red Rose fans loved for years, was born in Yorkshire. He was born in Skipton, my wife’s hometown. And he lived in Earby, which is on the road from Skipton to Burnley.
Ironically the year he was born in 1974 Earby switched sides and move from The West Riding of Yorkshire to Lancashire. Players from that area could just as easily have found themselves heading east along the A59 to play their cricket in Leeds, rather than southwest and along the A56 to Manchester. There is another link here. Earby is where my wife Julia bought her wedding dress. But it didn’t feature either a white rose in its design, nor a red one.
Because of the late arrival in Southport the ECB at least gave permission for the match the next day to start at midday instead of 11am. But there was a strict no dogs policy at Southport and Birkdale Sports Club. So Heaton Stannington Harry, one of Durham’s most loyal canine supporters had to stay at home.
The game featured England’s Jimmy Anderson for the hosts and Ben Stokes for the visitors. Anderson was replaced by Nathan Buck in the hosts’ second innings. It was also memorable for thousands of flying ants! While commentating from the steps of a tennis pavilion I became aware the path near me was starting to move. Hundreds of ants started to emerge from a crack in it.
A member of the ground staff decided to pour boiling water down the hole. I don’t know why. It just brought out more of them. In no time the air was thick with flying ants. Thousands of them.
It was a 40-year-old who grabbed the headlines in the first innings for Durham, as captain Paul Collingwood recorded the 112th First Class 50 of his career, despite batting with damaged webbing on his hand. Scott Borthwick earlier made 64 and Mark Stoneman 41. It was a competitive pitch with plenty of spring and bounce and plenty of pace.
Durham ended up with a first innings lead of 87, having bowled Lancashire out for 204. Chris Rushworth took 4-30. Alviro Petersen top-scored for the hosts with 51. But Lancashire fought back in their second innings with Luke Procter facing 282 balls for his 112. He also put on 114 with Haseem Hameed (53) for the second wicket and 70 for the sixth with debutant Tom Moores. The young wicketkeeper is the son of former England coach Peter and was on loan from Notts.
Procter should have been run out on 71 but Adam Hickey, making his Durham debut, dropped the ball at the stumps. He was also dropped by keeper Michael Richardson on 92, off Hickey’s bowling. Lancashire were all out for 333 with Ben Stokes taking 3-50. Hickey got 2-37.
Set 247 to win, Durham were cruising on the final afternoon and reached 170-2 but spinner Simon Kerrigan came into the attack and got Jack Burnham LBW for 52. Durham lost 5-25 in 11 overs, including Keaton Jennings on 82 and it looked like they might lose.
Tom Smith did most of the damage with 5-25. If ever there was an occasion for Ben Stokes to come in and restore calm, this was it. It’s become his trademark. He made 36 runs and put on a crucial partnership of 48 for the eighth wicket with Hickey, who made 21 not out.
Durham won with two wickets to spare to cap off a fantastic game of cricket. And later Stokes and some of the jubilant Durham players had an impromptu game of cricket with some local kids.
It was such a beautiful week weather-wise. Too hot for me. One night at the close of play I retreated to the old baths opposite the hotel. It turned out a colleague’s relatives were running it. Small world. But the feel of that lovely cold water was fantastic. I also had a fantastic view north from my hotel room of The Lake District.
After the win at Southport Durham went second, 13 points behind leaders Middlesex. But they collapsed in Taunton to lose a game they should have won and followed that up with defeat by Middlesex at Lord’s. They only guaranteed “survival” with a win in their final game at home to Surrey. But the ECB had already decided to relegate them anyway. It’s just they were among the last to hear about it. The bombshell came in October of the same year.
As I mentioned earlier the top match at an outground I have had the pleasure of covering was Durham’s tense encounter with Yorkshire at Scarborough in 2013. It formed a major part of my chapter about that title winning season from a few weeks ago.
But in case you missed it, here it is again:
They call it “the smallest manned navy in the world!” For eighty years, three times a week, the battleships of Peasholm Park recreate scenes from famous naval encounters. But just a cannon ball flight away some greater battles have been fought at North Marine Road, one of the finest places in English cricket.
I first covered a game in Scarborough in the summer of 2005. By then I had got to know Dave Callaghan from BBC Radio Leeds really well. He was great company and I can’t think of anyone who didn’t like him. Despite his Manchester upbringing, in cricket he was Mr Yorkshire. Along with a few others, like his great pal Dickie Bird.
To me Scarborough was basically Dave. Or Dave was Scarborough. Either way they brought out the best in each other. In 2005 I travelled the 96 miles to Scarbados from The Roker Riviera to see if Durham could keep their promotion hopes alive. It was Mike Hussey’s last match as skipper and it was late summer. A typical British summer. The match ended in a weather affected draw but Durham did enough to go up with Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The trip to Scarborough in 2013 was an altogether different kettle of fish. Durham had suffered a bit of a dip in form in mid-summer. A defeat at Lords’ in the championship didn’t help matters. A few days later they went out of the T20 in a quarter final at Northants, while defeat on an appalling wicket in Derby brought an end to their one-day hopes.
So, Durham arrived in Scarborough fourth in the table. They were 25.5 points behind leaders Yorkshire. But it had the feel of a title decider, even with a few games to go. The visitors went into it after returning to winning ways with a comprehensive victory against Surrey in Chester-le-Street. The margin was an innings and 144 runs. A confidence booster.
But they had been chasing their rivals for the majority of the season after a Joe Root-inspired defeat in April.
On day one in Scarborough Durham were 5-2 after three overs as Ryan Sidebottom removed Keaton Jennings third ball and Scott Borthwick second ball. Both went LBW for ducks in Sidebottom’s second over. But they fought back and eventually made 573 – their highest score against Yorkshire.
It included a career-best 122 from Mark Stoneman – who eventually became Ryan Sidebottom’s 600th first class victim. Ben Stokes also chipped in with 127 and there was a first century for Michael Richardson, who reached 102 with his last partner Chris Rushworth at the other end.
Yorkshire were forced to follow on as they were bowled out for 274 to leave them 299 behind. And after losing a quick wicket it looked like Durham would take an innings victory, but Kane Williamson and Phil Jaques then put on 264 for the second wicket, with Jaques making 152 and Williamson 97.
Ben Stokes took one end for himself and just kept pounding in over after over. Paul Collingwood told him to take a rest but he refused. “I certainly wasn’t going to take the ball off him when he was in that mood!” he said. He took 3-108 in 38.2 overs. Chris Rushworth and Scott Borthwick also took three apiece.
The tide changes the wicket in Scarborough. When it comes in conditions become harder for the batsmen. When it’s out they are easier. Local knowledge had it the two Yorkshire batsmen benefited from the coastal conditions on the Friday afternoon. But the final morning saw things swing back in Durham’s favour as the tide returned.
With them gone the last six wickets only mustered a further 116 runs and Durham chased down their target of 121 with seven wickets in hand and 9.2 overs of the game left. It was Yorkshire’s second defeat in just 31 games!
Dave Callaghan sadly died just before the season was due to get going two years ago. The commentary boxes in Scarborough are named Cally One and Cally Two.
Durham closed the gap to five points and would go on to win the title a few weeks later.