We had arranged to meet at Marylebone station, in order to get the Chilterns Railways line up to Birmingham. This route had many advantages: firstly, on the day tickets are significantly cheaper than those offered by Virgin at Euston; secondly, the train nerd in APB (my travelling companion) preferred that route for some reason to do with locohaul options; and finally the possibilty of Chilterns Rail Ale Trail.
When I got to Marylebone there was a message on my phone explaining that we needed to go from Euston, as our Chilterns tickets would not be valid on the late train.
As we approached the stadium it started to drizzle. Not a problem, we thought. It’s only a shower after all. As we waited outside for APB’s brother (R), and R’s other half (K), we couldn’t help but notice that despite it being past 2pm there was no cricket happening in the middle.
When R arrived, he informed us that there was a delayed start. Undeterred, we decided to enter the ground and find our seats. We sat in the sunshine while we waited for the 4pm start. R and K had brought a humongous picnic hamper and so we ate cheese rolls and had a nice refreshing pint.
R had recently bought an electric street sweeper on eBay, which he intended to convert to mains supply in order to clean his drive. K wasn’t particularly impressed with this state of affairs as their house was already full of random hardware off eBay. They also talked about buying a hearse, since they seem quite practical.
Come 4pm, there was a pitch inspection, at which point the clouds thought it would be funny to rain. Not that continuous sunshine would have made much difference. Looking at the outfield, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see flamingoes out there.
Speaking of which, I was expecting some light ornithology during the day. I had previously been on a holiday with APB during which he had called out “STOP THE CAR! I’ve just seen my favourite bird” (a collared pratincole since you ask). I was not to be disappointed. My friends are so cool. Over the course of the day we apparently saw jackdaws, lesser black back gulls, herring gulls, pigeons, mallards, and possibly a peregrine.
Since there was as yet no cricket we enjoyed another beer, and another visit to the cool box. They were showing Andy Murray against Tsonga on the screen by the bar, so we watched that for a bit. R and K told us about a rail tour they’d been on from Cwmbran in south Wales to Scarborough, where they went to Naval Warfare. I was looked at in disbelief by the entire stand when I said I had no idea what Naval Warfare in Scarborough was. Now that I’ve googled it, I can see what all the fuss is about.
There was another pitch inspection. They even removed the covers. Excitement bubbled up about the ground. The teams came out and did some drills. Nasser Hussain did a bit out in the middle talking into a camera. A beer snake emerged triumphant to our right. It was starting to feel like a day at an ODI.
Then Nass walked past our stand, doing the finger over the throat movement. Could have meant one of two things. (1) He had beef with a crowd member, or (2) the game was a non-starter. It was the latter. People booed. Mostly at Nasser Hussain. I’m sure it wasn’t his fault.
As people filtered out, we realised that we had a bit of time, so we stayed in the ground. The Australian team came out to do some exercise. I imagine the English were eating a mini pork pie or four in the dressing room. I can now report that Brett Lee and Shane Watson are not as physically fit as their younger team mates.
We had a brisk walk back to New Street, including passing a wagon full of sheep. In Birmingham city centre. On the train home we reflected that despite the expensive train and lack of cricket, we’d had a nice day out after all. Then to top it all off, a double locomotive freight train passed by.