Here, among the very old, the very young, the unemployed and the unemployable, I sit in the part conference room, part railway waiting room quasi-splendour of Lancashire CCC’s new pavilion, opened on Tuesday afternoon prior to the YB40 match against Scotland.
At a cost of around £9m, this is a triumph in beige, glass and ordinariness. Crutches clack across the school dining-hall parquet floors, phlegm is cleared like echoing thunder, and stewards’ radios crackle and fizz with the menace of angry gods beneath the high vaulted ceiling.
“Bloody waste of money,” one member tells me. “There were nowt wrong with the old one.”
The two clock towers remain from the original edifice, flanking what little has been preserved of the old pavilion, built in 1895 at a cost of £10,000.
Hit in 1940 by a Nazi bomb of questionable accuracy (it’s not entirely clear whether Hitler believed he could defeat us by demolishing cricket grounds) the roof was replaced only 10 years ago at a cost of £1m.
Old Trafford, the second ground to host test cricket, was the only test venue with a pavilion parallel to the pitch until 2010 when the square was re-laid. For this adjustment, there is almost universal approval amongst members.
Back in 1878, WG Grace brought 28,000 spectators to Old Trafford to watch his Gloucestershire side, and this invasion prompted the realisation that there was a need for a bit of a refurbishment of facilities.
I’m here for the first day of the LV Division Two match against Northamptonshire.
It’s a humid morning and Lancashire make the most of winning the toss by inserting the visitors; not long after lunch they have skittled them out for 62 with Kyle Hogg returning figures of 7 for 27.
By contrast, on this ground in 1902, Australian batsman Victor Trumper had scored a test century by lunch.
There is, of course, a wealth of history here, none of which is presently reflected in the new pavilion.
This is the ground on which Jim Laker (he of the: “The aim of English cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat the Australians” comment) became the first player to take all 10 test wickets in an innings, finishing with match figures of 19 for 90.
But let’s give this new pavilion time and let’s see how it matures. For now though, not only is it drab; it is soulless.
By the 3rd test, which
commences here on August 1st, it would be nice to have a few pictures on the walls, the bar staff to have figured out how the till works and some taps that don’t flood the toilet floors.
Yet the one thing that will never be sorted is that it isn’t really a pavilion.
The key thing about a pavilion is that it’s where the players hang out and now they don’t come anywhere near this building. Instead, they are to be found in the Players and Media Centre which is directly opposite. There is no connection between the players and their loyal following; no clicking of spikes as a batsman departs for the middle nor hurling of helmet through window when he returns.
And that, unless another errant bomb falls on it, is the way things will stay.