A New Road to old-school charms of English cricket

A New Road to old-school charms of English cricket

They talk a lot about the past at New Road. They in fact revel in a form of unbridled nostalgia here. In a way, when they are not looking up at the skies for the perennial threat of rain, which they do a lot here in Worcester, the locals are generally looking back at the good ol’ days. Over the course of the three days while Australia are here for their tour match, you hear more about the cricketers who were and had been here in years past than those in town and at New Road currently.

If anything, the only member of the visiting Ashes contingent who enjoys any sort of spotlight is former Worcestershire legend and now Australia batting coach Graeme Hick, who has sat in the away dressing-room at New Road for the first time ever, in the aptly named Graeme Hick pavilion. For good reason too. He was after all responsible for nearly a quarter of the runs scored at this ground for nearly 25 years. There is the occasional cheer for Travis Head, as a courtesy for his contributions towards the county team over the last couple of years as their overseas professional.

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Most other cricketing conversations around New Road centre round names of a rather dated vintage. Like with almost every throwback in an Anglo-Australian context, a lot of it revolves around Don Bradman. They range from how he came to New Road on three occasions for tour matches in the 1930s and scored a double-century in each of them to his final visit here in 1948 when he scored a century and had a local newspaper headline declaring that, “Bradman had failed at New Road”.

There are also discussions on how Jack Flavell-who took 1529 first-class wickets between 1949 and 1967, played 4 Tests and also managed to average 9.75 with the ball in a brief List A career-was the greatest home-grown fast bowler to play for Worcestershire. Not to forget Roly Jenkins, the county’s best-ever leg-spinner, who finished with 1309 first-class wickets and also was posted on top of Worcester Cathedral during the second world war.

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For good measure, Vanburn Holder, the former West Indian fast bowler turned umpire who spent a dozen years for Worcestershire and settled here, is spotted catching some of the action on Day Two. Just to break it up, there’s also the fascinating tale of how Australians Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall once played an exhibition tennis match on the New Road outfield in the 1960s. There’s also the recall to the fire a couple of days after Worcestershire won the county championships for the first time in 1964 at the famous Lea and Perrins factory, which produces Worcestershire sauce, where the roof and clocktower were burnt down.

Worcester and New Road exist in a bygone era. But so does the concept of tour matches. And you wonder how long this seemingly archaic addition to every Ashes schedule will continue to exist in an era where international teams have started opting for more custom-made options, mostly involving the use of their own resources, to acclimatise and also work on sealing cracks if any midway through a series in foreign climes. There’s little that Australia could have gained from spending three days at New Road in a cricketing sense having finished the first Test some 30 hours earlier.

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And on Friday (August 9), Tim Paine admitted that the most important gain for his team from the Worcester game was ensuring they could “keep the lid” on their celebrations post the victory at Edgbaston. “Yeah we enjoyed ourselves but having a tour game 24 hours away (2 days after), it wasn’t overly big. I don’t know who put that schedule that together but it seems to have worked out alright. I think the boys are actually pretty happy with it,” he said.

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Cricket Tang

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