Saturday, August 06, 2016
Leicestershire vs Derbyshire, Grace Road, 5 August 2016
When I first went to see a match at Grace Road the advertising around the ground was dominated by the Leicester dairy Kirby & West, but it was never called the Kirby & West County Ground.
I spent Friday at the cricket there and found that it is now officially the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.
It has also acquired floodlights since I was last there. The fox weather vane on the score box that J.W. Logan donated is still missing though.
Friday was the second day of the match and Leicestershire had scored 300-7 on the first, with Ned Eckersley 73 not out. He played watchfully the next morning and managed to reach his century before he ran out of support at the second end.
Leicestershire made early progress in the field, with the first three Derbyshire batsmen clean bowled before they reached 50. But Wayne Madsen then played well - I left just after he was out with the score on 174-6 when it still looked as though Leicestershrie (who made 380) would manage a substantial first innings lead.
However, this morning the Derbyshire tail wagged and they almost caught Leicestershire up by making 362. By the close tonight they had reduced Leicestershire to 109-5 in their second innings and may even be favourites to win tomorrow.
As to favourite players, for Leicestershire I liked Charlie Shrek. Aged 38 now, he began playing in leagues in Cornwall and did not make his first class debut until he was 25, yet he made it as far as the England Lions team. If not the fastest bowler on show yesterday, he was certainly the most aggressive. He was the only one who bothered bowling bouncers, and one of them accounted for Madsen when he seemed well set.
Better still was the comfortably upholstered figure of Mark Cosgrove, Leicestershire's captain. A one-day international for Australia, he now reminds me of the county championship of earlier days when players did not numbers and the ball was not thrown back aggressively to the keeper every time it was fielded. He once fell (I almost wrote "had a fall") fielding and went off for a while to recover.
None of this is meant to be disrespectful - Cosgrove's captaincy has been vital to Leicestershire's return from the dead in the last couple of seasons.
For Derbyshire I appreciated Tom Milnes, a pocket version of a fast bowler with a lovely action, and the debutant Callum Parkinson. He is a left-arm spinner who took four wickets in Leicestershire's first innings and an undefeated 48 at no. 11. His twin brother Mark has already had an impact for bowling leg spin for Lancashire this season.
But I fear that Leicestershire's approach - hulking great seamers and no spinners - is more calculated to help a side prosper in the second division.
I worked out that my first visit to Grace Road was also to see Leicestershire play Derbyshire and in 1973 - an incredible (to me) 43 years ago. I remember nothing of the play, but I do remember that the ground floor of the Meet (the barrel-roofed stand the club brought with it from Aylestone Road) doubled as a groundsman's shed and a servery for refreshments.
I have a much clearer memory of my second visit that season when M.J. Smith scored a hundred before lunch for Middlesex.
What really dates that visit is that Fred Trueman had played some Sunday league games for Derbyshire the year before and the friend I went with and I speculated that he might turn out for them at Grace Road.
If you like This Sort of Thing, Backwatersman does it much better.