Today saw confirmation that the first final of the World Test Championship, between India and New Zealand will take place at the Ageas Bowl, near Southampton. The match is scheduled for 18-22 June. The question had been whether it could be staged at Lord’s or not.
THE PROS AND CONS
From a purely cricketing point of view the Ageas Bowl is a superior venue to Lord’s – it will produce a good pitch on which cricketer’s of all types will be able to get into the game, whereas it would only take one overcast day at Lord’s for the match to settled in favour of whoever was bowling at the time, and spinners would find little assistance at any stage of proceedings.
Of course, from a historical and emotional point of view Lord’s, the home of cricket, would have been far superior to the Ageas Bowl.
However, heretical as it will seem to many devoted cricket followers, I would never have had Lord’s in the equation, for all its history and status as a ground – had I been going for a London venue, for which I can see the logic, I would have preferred The Oval, a ground with a grand history in it’s own right, and far more likely to provide a really good match than Lord’s.
As it is, I expect a cracking game between these two sides.
WHY THE AGEAS BOWL?
The Ageas Bowl is one of two grounds in England, the other being Old Trafford, to have hotel built into it, meaning that if the health situation warrants it can easily be turned into a bio-secure bubble, as it was last summer. For all the Prime Minister’s optimism regarding the health situation and his so called ‘road map out of lockdown’, Chris Whitty has been sounding a much more cautious note, and I for one trust him more than I do Johnson. So it seems do the cricketing powers that be who came to this decision.
To put it mildly my expectation is that ordinary spectators will not have to worry about getting there in any case, although it is possible that they will be allowed. The Ageas bowl has a reputation for not being accessible, and there is some justice in that. I did a bit of research based on a hypothetical journey from my home in North Lynn to the Ageas bowl and it went as follows:
- Use of google maps revealed that the nearest train station to the ground is Southampton Airport Parkway.
- If one can be at that station by 9:27AM there is a bus that runs to the ground and would arrive at 9:45AM. Otherwise, one either has a seriously long walk (over an hour, and not terribly pleasant either by the look of it), or one has to fork out for a taxi on top of other expenses (this is a station serving an airport, so taxis will be available, but doubtless at a premium price).
- To arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:27 I would have to be on the 5:39 train out of Lynn, which means leaving my bungalow by 5:15 at the latest, I would then have to change at King’s Cross to the Victoria line, board a mainline train at Victoria and change at Clapham Junction to the train that calls at Southampton Airport Parkway. If and only if all of these connections worked as they are supposed to I would arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:13, giving me 14 minutes to be aboard the bus. With four stages at which things could go wrong this hypothetical journey would be a colossal (and doubtless expensive) gamble.
NB it is notoriously difficult to get from Southampton town centre itself to the ground, so at least to that extent my methodology, anchoring to Southampton Airport Parkway, is sound.
HOW THE MATCH SHOULD BE APPROACHED
This is a one-off match, with no ‘rest of the series’ or ‘league table position’ to be thought about, so both sides should look askance at the very idea of a draw and should be eager to force a definite result. I would personally favour allowing extra days, or even making this officially the 100th timeless test ever to be played, and the first such since WWII, in order that we do have a definite winner. In the Centenary Test Match of 1977 Mike Brearley ordered his side to keep going for an unlikely final innings target of 463, even though a defeat was the likely outcome of so doing, and stuck to that intent even going into the final session with 110 needed and only five wickets standing. England ultimately lost by 45 runs, the same result and margin as the inaugural test match 100 years earlier, but Brearley was right to scorn the draw in a one-off match. Brearley talks about the match in “The Art of Captaincy”, while Greg Chappell (Aussie skipper in the match in question) covers it in some detail in “The 100th Summer”.
Time for my usual sign off…