English cricketers at the practice session on Tuesday ahead of the first Test at Trent Bridge against India © AFP
By Arunabha Sengupta
A day before the Test, Trent Bridge is bathed in sunshine, the few clouds that hover around are whitish, good-natured, harmless. It is warm enough for the press box windows to be pushed ajar. It is one of those glorious days when the god of cricket is in heaven and the sound of willow on leather cuts through the air in beats of celestial music.
It is quite a change from what it had been for the last few days. The lady in the reception at the Bed and Breakfast gave me a smile as she declared, “You have brought the sun with you.”
The BBC weather tells us it is going to rain is likely later in the afternoon, get steadily heavier towards the evening. Light rains are expected to interrupt the proceedings on Thursday when India take on England in the first of the five-match Test series, heavier ones on Saturday. The locals cheerfully predict lots of sunshine and rain, which is not too cheery news for cricket. Some stoppages seem to be on the cards, which would be a pity, with the ground all but crying out for a good full game of cricket.
In the ground, the English cricketers go through a long stint at the nets as the sun beats down. The intensity levels rise with passing hours. Stuart Broad slowly increases his pace. The focus remains steadfastly on the basics, line, length and a straight bat – especially for Alastair Cook. On the third practice pitch, across the ground on the other side of the main playing area, he is given a thorough session against short balls, delivered with slingers from half pitch. The Indians are scheduled to appear later, in the early afternoon – just when the showers are supposed to start their antics.
The press box is also warming up, slowly, with the chatter less about the game and more about anecdotes, cricketing or otherwise. It gets somewhat louder after Derek Pringle walks in. The pitch looks innocent enough from this distance, but who knows whether there is some clever devilry beneath the surface of calm. James Anderson and Broad have revelled bowling here. The surface looks barren enough to neutralise the historical advantage, but one can never say until a session of real cricket has been played.
From the top of the Radcliffe Road End stand, one can squint in the direction far ahead where once upon a time Robin Hood’s merry men romped about with abandon. The Sherwood Forest has long receded, the Nottingham Forest is merely a football club with the City Ground stadium bordering the cricket stadium.
Ironically, none of the teams can be termed merry, especially when in the immediate history. However, both have their eyes on their targets, eager to hit the mark, keen to come out of the woods. From that point of view the setting could not have been more apt.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)