Day/Night Test Match, England v West Indies, Edgbaston, 17 to 19 August 2017

After a super meal at Colbeh – reported here – and a good night’s sleep at the Eaton Hotel, Daisy and I would have been fit and ready to walk to Edgbaston for an 11:00 start…

…but this was a day/night test match, so instead I arranged to have a music lesson with Ian Pittaway in Stourbridge. It bucketed down with rain on the way to Stourbridge, which made me wonder whether Edgbaston would be fit for cricket by 14:00, but I needn’t have worried. Day/Night One of the match turned out to be a very sunny although slightly chilly affair.

Daisy and I walked to the ground in dry, improving weather. Security was tight but well organised this year, so we joined the others at about 13:40. The others were Charley The Gent Malloy, The Boy Malloy, Nigel “Father Barry” White and Harsha Goble.

Mrs Malloy had made a splendid picnic for us all, consisting mostly of an extremely plentiful supply of big bap sandwiches. Chas went into major-domo mode, insisting that we tuck in at regular intervals, saying:

“I cannot report back to Dot that any of these sandwiches remained uneaten.”

At the end of Day One I sent some thoughts about our day/night experience to King Cricket, who published my thoughts along with those of others –  click here.

Daisy took loads of pictures, which you can see on Flickr – click here – a sample of which are shown below.

 

A shot from the first session
Things seemed to be going England’s way
Lunch at four in the afternoon? Getaway!
Shadows lengthen on the Eric Hollies Stand opposite

After the instruction “Nessun Dorma” (reported on King Cricket), Daisy stayed awake to take the following lovely shot after sunset:

Stunning, although it looks a bit René Magritte

The weather forecast for Day Two was not so special – indeed it was obvious that the weather would close in sometime between 19:00 and 20:00 and there would then be no further play that day.

Daisy, Nigel and I went over to Chas and Nick’s hotel on that Day two morning, hatching a plan that we should eat relatively light at the ground that day with a view to eating a good meal together in Colbeh to make up for the session of cricket that we looked likely to lose. If the weather by chance relented, we could always stay at the ground and eat from the selection of increasingly interesting and decent food outlets at Edgbaston these days.

Daisy captures the look of the pink ball on the big screen

Harsha had, unfortunately, needed to return to London for a funeral on the Friday, but was expecting to arrive back at Edgbaston around 19:00.

The rain arrived as expected around 19:30. We had redirected Harsha towards the “dining at Colbeh rather than watching the rain come down” plan.

Much better than sitting at Edgbaston watching the rain

Once again, Colbeh was excellent.

In truth, it was great to have the opportunity to have a meal together and “chew the fat” after the cricket – this aspect (which would normally be absent for a day/night match) is the biggest down side to such match timing…the colder evenings being less of an issue, although…

…Day Three did turn out to be a chilly day.

Daisy and I walked to the ground all three days; Day Three being the most pleasant walking conditions of the three – sunny but a tad cooler than Day One.

We saw an interesting sight on the way to the ground:

An Ethiopian Orthodox Service at St Georges Church on a Saturday
It looked half service, half church fete.
Dawid Malan fielding right in front of us…I don’t think he spotted me!
There was some freezing cold business with lads behind us clearly not dressed for the occasion and divesting themselves of what little clothing they had
Members of the Mexican community behind the Eric Hollies Stand looked more suitably dressed for a chilly day/night match…
…members of the Flintstone community behind the Eric Hollies Stand less so.

England were all over the West indies like a rash on Day Three. Here is the Cricinfo summary of the  match.

The others bailed out before the end of the match, as Chas, Nick and Harish were travelling home that night and Nigel wanted a lift back to the hotel.

We’d all had a good time – three days had just flown by.

Daisy and I stuck it out until the last ball – the first time I had ever seen a whole first class match, let alone a test:

Close to the last moments of the game

Gosh it was cold by the end; we thought about bailing out a couple of times, but then a wicket would fall. We walked back to the Eaton Hotel that night to warm ourselves up, which worked rather well.

A very one-sided match but also a very enjoyable few days.

The Heavy Rollers, Edgbaston, England v Pakistan Days One to Three, 3 to 5 August 2016

Warming up before the start, 3 August
Warming up before the start, 3 August

It’s a little difficult to explain why this outing worked so well this year, but it was indeed a most enjoyable success.

In the run up to the match, I had a sense of foreboding about the trip, in particular when Charles “Charley the Gent Malloy” Bartlett let me know that his knee was so bad he had brought his surgery forward and was unable to join me at Lord’s for day one of the first test (hence Simon “Awesome Simo” Jacobs joined me as a supersub).  Charles said then that he was “still hoping to make it” for Edgbaston.

Charles has previous in the “still hoping to make it” department – as this King Cricket report from 2011 attests.

I started to suspect that all would in fact be well when Chas wrote, 10 days or so before the event:

“I need to see how my first car drive goes on Saturday, I also need to talk to ‘Razor’ and ‘Knuckles’ both Essex members as they offered to take my tickets off me…if I didn’t recover in time – let me see how the drive goes over the weekend and how they respond to the disappointment.”

I replied:

Razor and Knuckles sound like absolutely delightful company; indeed possibly preferable to the original candidates for the roles…

A week later, it became clear that Razor and Knuckles were set to remain in their Essex lairs; Chas again:

To confirm I’ll be bringing some 1st day food up with me on Wednesday. Dot’s happy to provide some sandwiches – corn beef and mustard on soft white and egg mayonnaise on soft white. I have some other stuff (old favourites) and some (new stuff) that looks ok, too!

In fact, Dot’s first day sandwich feast also included heaps of ham on brown and cheese on brown too. We struggled…in a good way, saving most of the other less perishable delicacies (Harish and I had also brought quite a few of those) for the later days.

So, the night before the match it was just me and Nigel dining and at the hotel, as reported here. Chas and Nick “The Boy Malloy” turned up very early on the morning of the match (Nigel and I were still at breakfast). Nigel and I had planned to walk to the ground; Nick and Chas were cabbing it. Harish was a little delayed in traffic, but, still keen to walk, ambled to the ground on his own that morning.

We were all at the ground in time for the toss. Nigel was smarting a bit, in part because the walk was perhaps a bit much for his knees, in part through the indignity of having his minimally-concealed Shiraz-in-a-flask seized at the gate.

I had determined in any case to enjoy the Edgbaston cricket dry during the day again this year, making space for a glass or two in the evening.

The three days of cricket were wonderful. At the end of day one we were all unsure whether England had scored enough runs. At the end of day two we were sure they hadn’t and that Pakistan were close to total control. At the end of day three we knew that England had all-but wrested control back from Pakistan.

Here is the match scorecard.

We played our traditional sweepstake game all three days; this year, unusually, Harish swept the board, especially on one of the days. I wanted him tested for performance enhancing substances but Harish mysteriously failed to turn up for the tests.

Harish and I were keen to walk to and from the hotel each morning and evening. After that first morning, Nigel bowed out of the walk until the Friday evening. On one of our walks, I think it was Friday morning, Harish and I had a very interesting chat about music. We schemed a tabla/ukulele jam for next time but struggled to work out whether some of Harish’s favourite tabla rhythms could possibly work with western tunes, which are usually relentlessly 4/4 or occasionally 3/4 time signatures.

Harish pointed me to the work of Zakir Hussain – click here for a fine short example – on tabla. He also pointed me towards rupak taal (songs in seven beat rhythm – here is an example of one of those with Zakir Hussain again. I’m not sure about adapting western songs to these rhythms – beyond my skills anyway, but we could probably manage some haunting, simple variations on well-known tunes if I work up some broken chords with seven plucks per chord.

On the Wednesday evening, Chas and Nick didn’t feel like coming out at all. Following an extensive investigation on our way back from the ground, Harish and I settled on Mr Idly, which Harish was pretty sure was a refurbed version of the good Southern Indian place he and Nigel had enjoyed the year before. Nigel was certainly up for that, so off we all went. Excellent dosa in my opinion. The idly, which we shared as a starter, was OK but I recalled that idly is not so much to my taste as dosa.

On the Thursday evening, Nick had arranged to meet a friend in the evening but the rest of us were keen to try/return to Colbeh, which Nigel and I had enjoyed so much on the Tuesday evening. We were not disappointed.

Heavy Rollers in Colbeh 2016
With thanks to the waitress for taking the picture

I tried the slow-cooked lamb shank this time, while Nigel and Chas shared the full works of grills. Harish tried one of the vegetarian stews. Again, all the trimmings were wonderful, not least the amazing aubergine and mango sauce (not really a chutney, or at least not a sour chutney), which was new to me because, as we were proudly informed by the (other) son who looked after us this time, that sauce is his mother’s own recipe. To paraphrase Nigel’s eloquent recollection in the comments section from our previous visit, that makes it our sort of place.

On the Friday, all of us but Nigel headed home after the day’s play; in Harish’s and my case via the hotel, which had kindly offered safe custody to our vehicles, baggage and (in my case) Benjy the Baritone Ukulele. Nigel swore on the way home that he wouldn’t eat a thing that evening after three days of feasting and it seems he kept his word – Nigel’s subsequent e-mail report:

My plans for a quiet evening on Friday were ruined by Sharon and Kev’s engagement celebration in the hotel function suite, that really did feel like it was taking place in the next room. After the three day grazing, I took the unsolicited advice barely audible from a Ukulele shaped bag suggesting it wouldn’t harm that big bloke to miss a meal or two. That thing does have attitude.

In short, the whole trip was a great success. It’s a bit difficult to explain how or why spending several days with old friends doing so little can be so satisfying and relaxing, but it is. I guess the whole idea of five day cricket is hard to explain to the uninitiated. Nigel again, writing on the Sunday morning, just before the start of Day Five:

We have once again enjoyed a fascinating Test match, which only really began to be resolved during the last session. Into the fifth day and it is still compelling. It would be impossible to explain that to the Georgian Cabbie, seen to register disbelief at Charles’ response to “who won?” at the end of day one.

 

 

More Real Tennis Than I Had Bargained For and a Surprising, Excellent Meal in Edgbaston, 1 & 2 August 2016

One aspect of real tennis at Lord’s that I omitted to mention in my piece last week – click here for that piece – is the propensity for one of the players to cancel at the last minute or even simply fail to turn up at the appointed hour. There is a strict rule that people must pay for such lapses, but some seem unconcerned about money. It almost always causes inconvenience to the staff (who then need to find a last minute opponent or in extremis play an unscheduled hour themselves) and sometimes disappointment to the other player(s), who had turned up expecting one thing and end up with another…or occasionally, if out of hours, with nothing.

However, the fairly regular scurrying around for a last-minute replacement does afford a fairly local newbie, such as myself, to benefit from quite a few free (i.e. funded by the offender) gigs.

On the evening of 1 August, for example, I had arranged to play at 19:00, after work: I had an excellent hour. One gentleman was waiting for his 20:00 match – his opponent didn’t turn up. Initially I  offered to warm him up while he waited, but in the end we played a match. The handicapping system is a great help, up to a point, but he was a very sporty, experienced player – 30 handicap points ahead of me, which is out of range, really. It was great experience for me to play against such a player and I got better enough as the hour progressed for us to have some very good wrests (rallies in modern terms) in the end.

I was pretty worn out by the time I got home (I had also been to the gym that morning) and was wondering how I might get on playing again the next morning – a “pre-Edgbaston” idea. Actually, the body had calmed down by morning and I didn’t do too badly in my 10:00 hour. At the end of that hour, Chris Swallow asked if one of us could stay to help make up a doubles where one had dropped out at the last minute. My opponent couldn’t; I was in no rush, having demobilised the afternoon before, so did another two-hours-on-the-trot. Great fun, but 4 hours on court in the space of 17 hours is probably not ideal for an old git like me.

Half way to Edgbaston, when I stopped for comfort/petrol, I skimmed my e-mails and saw one from the MCC which read:

“you have caught the eyes of the selectors…would you be available to play real tennis for the MCC against the visiting Australians, The Wanderers, on 10 September?”

A very pleasing surprise. My reply:

The only criterion I can imagine might have caught the selectors’ eyes was my avoiding the need for a stretcher after two consecutive days of unexpected two hour slots.

Or perhaps it helps the handicapping to have a novice in the squad.

Still, I am flattered and absolutely delighted to accept the invitation to play that day.

I met up with Nigel at the Eaton Hotel and we went out for dinner quite early, both hungry and quite tired. We intended to go to Bengal Delight again, as we had enjoyed that place so much last year. We walked along the Hagley Road, got so far we realised we must have passed it or that it had gone. Checked on the smart phone and discovered that 207 Hagley Road is now a new Persian Kitchen and Bar, Colbeh (unrelated to the Bayswater Persian of that name).

I shall review the meal in full on TripAdvisor when I get home and add a link. Suffice it to say here that the food was really excellent; outstanding in fact. We were well looked after by a proud new proprietor and we really do wish him and the place well. In any case, it was great to catch up with Nigel over a meal again the night before the match.

So the headline is a little deceptive; it was a surprising, good meal because we set off for an Indian meal, which we expected to be good, but instead ended up enjoying Persian cuisine at that location, which was truly excellent. One of the joys of life.