It looked like England were going to win their first Test match for almost a year and with tickets only £15 and promises of cheap parking (a tenner – though they ended up not charging anything in the end) at the ground I decided to head down to the Rose Bowl (currently Ageas Bowl) and take in some England cricket. I baked the obligatory cakes for the TMS guys (mini lemon drizzle cupcakes and chocolate brownie) the night before, set an 07:45 alarm and left Bristol at 08:30. By 10:15 I was 3 miles away from the ground and hit the back of the queue to get in. By 11:00 play started and I was still in the queue on the motorway. The first wicket went down. I eventually moved onto the slip road and off the motorway. The second wicket went down. I (and several hundred other motorists) crept along the road closer and closer to the ground. I finally caught a glimpse of the turning for the car park at midday and parked at an interesting angle in a field at about 12:15.
I gathered up my cake tins and hurried along to the ground, through the electronic turnstiles (excellent), through the bag search, and then took a gamble as to which side of the hotel the media centre entrance would be to deposit the cake. Gambled incorrectly and as I turned around to make almost a full lap of the ground the third wicket went down. As I delivered the cake tins to the security guy who promised to take them through when he was relieved from his shift the fourth wicket went down. I hurried along to my seat at the back of the Shane Warne stand (under the roof) making it by 12:30 and caught the final 20 minutes and 2 wickets.
After all of the rushing around I ate my sandwiches, listening to the presentations from TMS rather than the Sky Sports ones that were boomed around the ground (and watching Tuffers trying to avoid getting in the channel 5 coverage). I know that the car parks can take a while to clear so figured that having taken 4 hours to get there I could take a little time in the ground. A lot of the England players were out signing autographs so I took my place at the boundary fence and got autographs from Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, Gary Ballance, Joe Root (who I complimented on his flip flops), Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and finally Moeen Ali.
It had been a surprisingly emotional journey down from Bristol as it traced the route I’d taken a number of times to visit my dad initially at the old family home and later in Portsmouth hospital. As the cricket finished earlier I decided to take a trip to visit the memorials/ashes scattering locations of both my parents (Loperwood cricket ground) and grandparents (Bolton’s Bench cemetery). I hadn’t seen the new memorial plaque in Lyndhurst which had to be re-done after thieves nicked the original metal one. I can report that there has been no change in the ability of tourists to completely ignore the “Do not touch – wild ponies” signs right next to the wild ponies they were encouraging their toddlers to go up and stroke. Natural selection in action. The trees have also grown up obscuring more of the view of Northerwood House from the Bench.
A slight loss of concentration on the journey back through Salisbury saw me make an unscheduled detour and I only just made it back to Bristol in time to see the Singing in the Rain musical at the Hippodrome. I am now looking forward to watching the cricket highlights and those first four wickets of the day.