I made an early start out of London on the Monday morning, taking the train to Leeds.
This was the first of my sojourns to see County Championship matches away from home this season and possibly catch up with old friends in the process.
I has planned to meet up with Jonathan Rose while in Leeds, but sadly he needed to back out with events having intervened in the days and weeks leading up to my visit.
No matter, I had Benjy the Baritone Ukulele with me and had chosen a comfortable-looking apartment hotel – The Chambers – click here.
I dropped my bags (Benjy cunningly ensconced in the larger one) with the friendly staff at The Chambers, then took a cab to Headingley, arriving less than an hour after the start of play.
The match had been very well poised at the end of day one and was looking very good for Middlesex when I arrived at the ground. But Jonny Bairstow got to work with the tail, putting on a final wicket stand to poise the match once again – possibly even tilt it in Yorkshire’s favour.
Thus the cricket went on for the two days I was there – a very exciting match unquestionably between two of the best teams at the time – here’s a link to the scorecard. The match concluded within three days, so I got to see the denouement.
I walked back to my digs from Headingley on both evenings and to the ground on the second morning; an interesting walk which includes some city centre, some student districts, some inner city residential areas and some leafy suburbs.
On arrival at The Chambers on the first evening, I encountered a well-heeled woman at the reception, the proprietrix it turned out, who gave me some advice about the gym and the locality. Then she said, “you must excuse me, David Guest is staying with me at the moment and we are due to go out soon.” The name vaguely rang a bell and I could tell that I was supposed to recognise the name and be impressed.
“How nice,” I said, “I hope you both enjoy your evening.”
I went up to my apartment, discovering (as so often happens with apartment hotels) that I had paid for a studio but been given a one bedroom flat. I got the wifi working quick as you like and Googled “David Guest”.
Did I mean “David Gest”?
Yes I did – ah, yes, I realised who he is (was).
Soon enough, I was ready to pop out to get a few provisions to enable me and Benjy to hunker down in my flat for the two evenings, now that my original evening plans had come to nowt. In the corridor I ran into the proprietrix again, with the unmistakable David Gest in tow.
“Hello again”, she said, beaming.
“Once again, I hope you have a lovely evening”, I said, adding “both of you” to include her guest, Gest.
I only needed minimal evening provisions, as the Yorkshire CCC committee hospitality left me with little need for food and refreshment in the evenings, so the recommended local supermarket less than 5 minutes walk away indeed did the job for me.
That first evening Benjy and I focused on some melancholy material; not least Northern Sky by Nick Drake and Vincent by Don McLean, I remember clearly working on both of those. Both songs seemed so apposite for that trip.
Very few Middlesex committee folk made the trip to Leeds that year, so the handful of us who were enjoying the hospitality got a great deal of personal attention. (Although I am not on the committee, I gratefully receive committee privileges for the work I do for the Middlesex committee).
Robin Smith, John Hampshire and Dickie Bird were all very active and welcoming hosts for that match.
On my second day there, the Tuesday afternoon, I particularly remember Dickie Bird getting very agitated about a DRS review on the TV, as the ODI series between England and New Zealand started that day. Sam Billings was given not out by the standing umpire and the Kiwis reviewed it.
‘Ees given ‘im not out. ‘Ees not out. Get on with the game. Get on with the game…
It was a stone dead LBW and the decision was reversed.
I’m not ‘appy about this. I’m not ‘appy about this at all. Umpire sees it as not out, it’s not out…
Meanwhile in the real world, Yorkshire were accumulating the runs towards their win at this point, but losing occasional wickets along the way.
Middlesex tried everything and I tried to dampen the enthusiasm of my hosts with tales of derring do. Thus, when James Harris came on for a late attempt at some wickets, I told them about his devastating spell against Durham a few week’s previously.
Then, when Toby Roland-Jones came on for a late burst, I reminded them that he had taken a hat trick to finish off Derbyshire a couple of seasons previously. That second tale was ironic I realise, writing some 18 months later, as Toby did indeed take a hat trick to finish Yorkshire off, the following season at Lord’s, to win Middlesex the County Championship.
Towards the end, when it really was obvious that Yorkshire were heading for a win, Tim Murtagh came on for one last ditch attempt. In jest, I tried to talk up Tim Murtagh’s match-winning skills as well, at which point Tony, one of the Yorkshire Committee Room regulars, snapped, “if I listened to you, I’d think every Middlesex bowler is about to take a fivefer and win you every game”.
Lots of people laughed – I hadn’t realised that anyone on the balcony was still in doubt about the result. But a tense finish is a tense finish I suppose. Naturally, even Tony was in good spirits within a few minutes of that exchange. Click here for the scorecard again.
After walking back to my apartment for the second and last time, I enjoyed a mixture of ukulele playing and watching England secure a very impressive win against the Kiwis – click here for that scorecard again.
It was especially sweet for me seeing England do so well in an ODI against a good side, having had an especially interesting conversation with ODI captain Eoin Morgan just one week earlier to the day…to the hour even.
I took a reasonably early (mid-morning) train back to London the next day, as I had clients to see in London. I think this was the match at which I ran into Vivica at the railway station and we travelled back to London on the train together, which made the journey pass quickly.