‘… And bowling from the Peasholm Park End’
Welcome to the very first post from a view from third man… I have wanted to set up a blog for many years now and today is the day. Hope you enjoy!
As this is my first post and I’m a little green to the blogging world, I thought id start with something close to my heart… Scarborough. Yes it probably doesn’t conjure up the exciting jaw dropping images in your mind that say Mt Everest or the Jungles of Borneo might… but bear with me… you might just find there is more than meets the eye!
Currently its my day off and I’m sitting at home in deepest darkest South Yorkshire. The clocks have gone back and its getting dark already (16:30). These long winter nights certainly lead to reflection of what has been a great summer! And that leads me on to the subject of this post… Scarborough has for many years been a staple of my summer. Each August I make the 2 hour journey from S Yorks on what some may say is my annual pilgrimage to the North Yorkshire coastal resort. Scarborough has at times been seen as dilapidated and old-fashioned, I know many people who scoff at the thought of 4 days on the chilly coast of the North Sea… so I guess the question is what makes me keep going back? WHY? I hear you ask…
So this is what all (maybe just me) the fuss is about! The annual Scarborough Cricket Festival. I suppose at this point I should mention that I am an ardent 20 something cricket fan (many would say obsessive). I have followed Yorkshire for many years now through ups and downs but the one constant is the annual 4 day County Championship festival game at Scarborough.
I really wanted this post to be less about facts and figures and more about the unique, welcoming and intimate atmosphere this ground and festival produces. Long form cricket has long suffered (albeit not my opinion) from a reputation of being a bit boring, dull and long-winded. A format only the die-hard fans can properly get their teeth into. Times have changed and as I know all too well myself work/life commitments make attending 4 days of a county championship match almost impossible. The exception for me and a few thousand fellow Yorkshire fans is the Scarborough match.
There is a strange sort of familiarity about the festival, myself and others have routines and traditions during festival week… staying in the same B&B, favourite breakfast cafe, guaranteed fish and chips and often even the same seats in the ground. But most importantly it’s a place where people reconnect and share their interest and love of cricket. The festival is a great leveler in my opinion, being away from a big city and all that it entails gives situations a reassuring sense of normality. For instance in 2018 after parking up (the usual spot near the old leisure centre), me and my friend ambled our usual route through the picturesque Peasholm Park and had our standard pre-cricket hearty breakfast (are you seeing the routine aspect?). On route for the 10 minute walk to North Marine Road (the ground) we passed two of the players themselves on route to the ground. These players are global superstars of their game and yet they could have just been 2 club players walking to their local ground for a Saturday league match. The early morning shoppers didn’t bat an eyelid at the cricketing talent that had just walked by. It’s hard to imagine that happening if this were in a city. In a strange way though that to us almost felt more endearing… This however shouldn’t be confused with a lack of passion and interest that the game produces. The whole town is cricket focused for those 4 days of the year, everywhere you look there is wide rimmed sun hats, comfy seat covers (more about that to come) and picnic baskets with supplies to last the day. Simple but beautiful.
Once at the ground you are greeted by a welcoming ‘ey up’ as you purchase your ticket from a friendly person as opposed to the automated machines used at football grounds. Indeed even the tickets are hand torn from an old-fashioned roll with a caveat sentence adorning the back of the ticket stating that ‘play is not guaranteed’ an ode to crickets greatest enemy… the rain or indeed bad light. Once through the wrought iron turnstiles you are treated to a view of the ground, one surrounded by terraced houses and with Peasholm park glimpsing above the stand. The players by this point are usually warming up and the outfield is a hive of activity. As mentioned before we cricket fans are creatures of habit and I usually take the same seat, square of the wicket on the benches of the popular bank. It’s amazing how many familiar faces you see from the years gone by, back every year for their fix of festival action. The ground is certainly not uniformal or standardised, with seated and benched stands of varying sizes encircling the prominent pavilion. The benches are practical if not comfortable for 6 hours viewing, meaning a foam seat cushion is an essential accessory. The umpires emerge first to a hearty clap, something alien to other sports but one of cricket many long-standing traditions. the players follow and the game finally begins to the odd elongated battle cry of ‘YOOORRRKKKSSSHHIIIRREEE’… the festival has commenced.
In between the balls you can fully appreciate the unique atmosphere this little gem of a ground creates. There is a gentle hum of conversation as people catch up whilst watching the action. The intimate nature of the ground means there are just a handful of food, drinks and retail outlets. The traditional tea rooms offering homemade sandwiches and the bar offering a pint of local ale is a Scarborough tradition on a sunny day. The relaxed nature of the game allows viewers to catch up, read the newspaper and flick through the latest players almanac whilst observing the game. I’m unaware of another sporting event where this is possible.
For me it is at the lunch and tea breaks that everyone in the ground really comes together. Unlike the test grounds during the breaks in play spectators are allowed onto the outfield. This single gesture pleases and enthrals so many generations of the festival crowd. Personally its the highlight of my year. Many move swiftly to the pitch to observe, photograph and muse with one another about the condition of the pitch and its impact on the game situation, everyone becomes a head groundsman at this point! Around the square out of nowhere hundreds of sporadic and questionable games of cricket take place with players from 3 to 83 taking part. It creates a unique sense of fun bringing families and friends together. It can do nothing but help to ensure cricket continues to be popular with the younger generations. Lunch allows the spectators to get up close and personal with the players who are warming back up, a unique view of standing 5 feet from a fast bowler bowling at 90 mph, not an experience that can be done justice from the stands. All along a vibrant jazz band generally plays within a gazebo towards the Peasholm Park end.
Once the outfield is cleared the game resumes and cricket is once again the focus. however this wouldn’t be Scarborough without a few quirky interruptions. Occasionally bangs and explosions can be heard mid play, these unusual and indeed unnerving noises emanate from the Peasholm Park naval reenactment and make a strange if not unusual accompaniment to the action. Furthermore being a coastal ground practically located on the cliff edge, NMR can be at the mercy of some peculiar weather. This could not have been more appropriate in 2018 (albeit not the festival game but one hosted in June). During what has been a belter of a summer weather wise, and despite locations just two miles inland enjoying 25 degrees + on arrival and throughout the days the play the ground was shrouded in a thick layer of sea fret, leading to plummeting temperatures and difficult playing conditions. Serious praise to the umpires on this occasion for allowing as much play to take place as did do. Just another oddity associated with watching cricket at North Marine Road.
As play comes to an end for the day (much like this blog post) punters say their goodbyes and agree to see one another the next day. Yorkshire fans are passionate by reputation, but in my experience at Scarborough it doesn’t really matter what the result is. This festival and all that goes with it means more to me and others than the blunt winning or losing. As long as there has been a fair and interesting game with ebbs and flows most are happy. I certainly am. Because quite simply there is nowhere to watch cricket that is quite like Scarborough and I don’t think there ever will be. Long may it continue…