Monday 1st May and heading south for the first time this season. We broke our journey to the London area at Oakham School where unusually Nottinghamshire second eleven were playing a home match in Rutland (now of course part of Leicestershire) against Worcestershire second eleven in the one day trophy competition. Whatever the reason for this unusual venue for Notts we were taken by surprise by the prompt start despite obviously heavy rain having fallen in the area earlier in the morning. A large attractive pavilion had appeared since my last visit some years ago and although we had initial parking problems we were in position as Worcester commenced their innings.
Yet again we caught up with former Yorkshire batsman Kevin Sharp, the Worcester second eleven coach, still enthusing about the home grown talent doing so well in the first team. He didn't let on that an announcement would be made later in the day that he was joining the England squad coaching staff.
Worcester started badly and were soon 34-3 against the hostile opening attack of Milnes and Brett Hutton (no relation). However George Rhodes, son of the long term Worcester director of cricket Steven Rhodes, played with confidence from the word go. Together with Aussie Alex (Audrey) Hepburn he put on a partnership of 138 and completed an excellent century after we had left to venture further south.
Worcester eventually won the game by just 15 runs, scoring 244-6 in their fifty overs to which Notts replied with 229-9 after an unlikely seventh wicket hundred partnership between Carter and Dal had almost taken them home. Worcester are doing well in this competition and look a useful side.
The following day we braved a short stretch of the M25 to get from our hotel to Merchant Taylor's School at Northwood, just south of Watford. Fortunately most of the traffic seemed to be gridlocked going in the opposite direction for mile after mile. I had been to the school before for a Middlesex county game which had been played on the main ground, but today's game between MCC Young Cricketers and Yorkshire second eleven was on the old boy's ground next door. There must be at least seven cricket squares on this huge area of sports facilities together with an athletics track.
The problem for both players and spectators was the strong wind blowing across the open fields, with no shelter whatsoever. The scorers were not immune from this, cowering in their cross between a hen hut and a bird hide. So yet another one day trophy game, in coloured clothing of course, began with the youngest of the three Curran brothers of Surrey being bowled by Josh Shaw for 2. This one is Ben, who is a batsman unlike his two brothers Sam and Tom who are finding fame as bowlers. Wickets fell at regular intervals and MCCYC were soon 111-5.
However a good partnership between South African Marc Lezar and New Zealander Ben Sears put on 64 for the sixth wicket, Lezar top scoring with 52. Yorkshire played both left arm spinners and James Logan had the best figures of the two with 3-53 in his ten overs. Carver had 1-41 in his ten but the best figures of the day went to Ryan Gibson with 3-35. When Yorkshire batted they started briskly with Tattersall and Lees, but after Rhodes was out for a duck Leaning and Gibson, both with scores in the seventies, knocked off the runs in quick time for a seven wicket victory by Yorkshire.
On Wednesday 3rd May the same two sides started a three day championship match at High Wycombe cricket club. A pleasant club ground, next to the busy main London road, but with some shortish boundaries to attract the big hitters. The hoped for southern warm weather still hadn't appeared and the nithering wind soon forced us indoors where we found a comfortable viewing position in the pavilion bar. MCCYC again batted first and yet again Ben Curran was first man out, this time for 23 lbw b Sidebottom. The two Yorkshire strike bowlers who have been out injured so far this season, Sidebottom and Brooks, were both playing to hopefully demonstrate their fitness. Brooks, who captained the side, also took an early wicket and then two more later in the day.
Top scorers were again two overseas players. Opener Don Manuwelge from Sri Lanka with a patient 82, who played the sheet anchor role,and Finn Allen from New Zealand with 95 in much quicker time, including fifteen fours and two sixes. Slow left armer Logan had a good long spell and had 3-63 in twenty two overs. The highlight of the day however was a wicket for teenage debutant Alec Drury from Driffield who has joined the Yorkshire Academy this season. He is an off spinner and took some punishment but stuck to his task well and had Brookes stumped by Hodd to be warmly congratulated by his team mates.
MCC Young Cricketers were all out for 362 and the second day saw a glut of runs, in fact a total of 555 were scored in the day. It didn't look that good in the first hour when Yorkshire lost three wickets for 53 after Callis, Tattersall and Ainsley were all out cheaply. Will Rhodes, who already has a big hundred against Lancashire seconds this season, did it again with a splendid performance. He put on 196 in partnership with Ryan Gibson who went for 71 and then 112 with Andrew Hodd before Rhodes was finally out for 147. He looked very dejected as he walked off, obviously thinking 200 was well within his reach.
Disconsolate Will Rhodes walks off with 147
The entertainment did not stop there as the lively Hodd pulled out every trick in the book, reverse sweeps, little dabs, he was so quick on his feet the bowlers did not know what to do. Sadly he fell just short of a century, going for a mid-wicket six, which would have taken him to 99, he was caught on the boundary edge. Young Drury was unfortunately out for a duck, then enter Josh Shaw who took centre stage. He savaged the bowling to every part of the field and beyond, launching sixes into the main road and completely dominating the shell shocked bowlers. He reached a maiden century off just 86 balls and hit ten fours and five sixes. Yorkshire immediately declared on 526-8 which was just eight runs short of their all time second eleven record score of 534-5 against Lancashire at Stamford Bridge in 2003.
We travelled home on Friday, missing the last day when Ben Curran dominated the proceedings with 192 and MCCYC were finally all out for 390. Four more wickets for Logan and three more for Drury, but time was running out and Yorkshire needed 227 from only 22 overs. They went for the runs from the start but gave up the chase on 121-5 in the seventeenth over. An honourable draw which provided splendid entertainment throughout, even if the cold wind never really went away.