Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Crowded House...

It's always nice to hear from Bob Marsden of Buxton Cricket Club. He's been a fixture of the place for some time and it is as good a club as you could wish to find, with a stunning location.

I hoped he would be in touch after last night's piece and it was good to see him confirming my thoughts on a potential use of Buxton at some point in the future. As I said last night, the romantic in me would love to see it, but there's a big difference between a good club ground and one worthy of first-class status. Bob kindly confirmed my thoughts on work needing done to make it viable there below last night's piece.

The same would go for other grounds. Ilkeston is a long way from being fit for the county game, even though the games there between ourselves and Nottinghamshire pulled large crowds. I always felt Heanor too small for first-class and with modern bats you could see 400 plays 350 in a 40-over game today. Even outfields are crucial - a club cricketer turns an ankle on a pothole and its a shame, but something that you treat as an occupational hazard. A first-class player does the same and a career could be gone, especially if it happened to someone in the last year of a contract.

I always smile when I see first-class players running in to meet the ball and swooping to throw in one-handed. Crikey, on my club ground anything off the square is like fielding on the Somme...safety helmets are no bad idea if you're getting into the long barrier position for someone who's really hitting it...

What really got me thinking was Bob's comment about the 8,000 crowd that Wisden recorded at Buxton when we played Lancashire there in 1970's Sunday League.  I was there with my Dad that day and still recall Lancashire putting us to the sword, Faroukh Engineer leading off with uncommon haste before Frank Hayes and Clive Lloyd biffed it around. Chris Wilkins then hit a huge straight six off Lloyd that was still rising as it cleared the crowd, while the late Ian Buxton hit another that landed a yard from where Dad and I sat at mid-wicket. Dad tried his best to catch it, I feel no shame in saying that I was doing my best to get out of the way...

It was a big crowd that day, plenty from Lanky-Lanky-Lanky-Lanky Lancashire, as the song went, but EIGHT THOUSAND? Were there three thousand more than at Derby for the Nottinghamshire game recently? Did they give out oxygen at the first aid tents? I'm not so sure and I'd be inclined to doubt the validity of some of these older crowd statistics. I know safety regulations were much different then and there were fewer cars (so how did they all get there?) but you'd have got to know people well if that was the genuine figure, bringing in £1100 - or about 14p per person.

It made me check another couple of statistics that I had in my head for accuracy and they're equally mind-blowing. In 1969, for the Gillette Cup semi-final against Sussex at Chesterfield, the crowd was reckoned to be TEN THOUSAND. Again, I was there with Dad that day and it was seriously busy (and wet, early on) but if you compare it to the Yorkshire sell-out recently - could you really get twice as many people into the ground? Given the limited space by the scoreboard and at either end (we sat at the lake end that day), I can only surmise that a lot were sitting in and behind the bandstand. I could accept maybe six thousand, at a push seven, but ten thousand? Hmmm...

Then the daddy of them all. 1948, the first day of the game against Donald Bradman's 'invincibles' at Derby. There was a massive post-war interest in the game and the chance to see a great side was a big draw. My old man couldn't get time off the pit to go and was pretty miffed about it. So how many does Wisden record attending the first day of the game?

17,000. SEVENTEEN THOUSAND...

Call me cynical, but were they counting legs, both those with two and with four? However the ground has been re-designed in the intervening period, I cannot conceive that three-and-a half times the recent sell-out against Nottinghamshire were allowed in it, unless they were working on a sardines commercial at the same time. Legislation may have changed, but if that figure is accurate they must have stood all day and had little in the way of a view. Sadly, as it happens, because the Aussies racked up 431-7 before the close, a young bowler named Les Jackson took two wickets and skipper Eddie Gothard, who was never a great bowler, took three and bowled Bradman.

Heady stuff. Suffice to say that if we ever get that number in the ground again I suspect the health and safety people would close us down.

Interesting thing, statistics. What do they say? There's lies, damn lies and then...

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