An hour before the cricket was scheduled to start at Trent Bridge, the gates were locked. The umpires had already trodden the sodden turf, noted the pools of water at the end of the run-ups, and brought to an end the potentially pivotal match between Nottinghamshire and Somerset, the top teams in Division One ofthe Championship.
An hour later, Somerset's coach was taking the team back to Taunton, and the only cricketer still in the dressing rooms was Andrew Caddick, who was not at all perturbed. "Calling it off doesn't really matter, to be honest," he said.
He is a realist. There was no play at the Riverside (Durham v Lancashire) or Headlingley (Yorkshire v Sussex) either. Nottinghamshire's draw had earned them seven points to Somerset's six. Their lead at the top of the table increased by a single point. They are 11 points ahead of Durham. Only Kent, who are 16 points adrift of Nottinghamshire, were able to play yesterday.
The last man in the pavilion was Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's obliging director of cricket, who speculated about the consequences of yesterday's washout: "There's something in it for everyone to play for," he said. "Somerset and Durham – each with a game in hand – are going for the Championship. Lancashire and Yorkshire are fighting relegation. Had Sussex won at Yorkshire, I wouldn't have ruled them out either."
But Sussex could not win, and the next crucial game is on Tuesday, when Somerset meet Durham: "We've got to hope for rain at Taunton," said Newell. He was not entirely joking.
Newell admires Durham's ensemble of England players, experienced South African Kolpacs, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, even though the obdurate West Indian has contributed little so far. "If he is firing, they've got the best team," says Newell.
At Taunton, Steven Harmison's return strengthens the squad, though Newell thinks there is a good chance of a draw: "The flat wicket won't help Harmison." Newell would be happy with honours even.
Somerset's batsmen have been scoring freely, until they reached Trent Bridge last week and could only manage 252 in their first innings. But this is an above- average score this season on a wicket that has favoured early swing and skilful spin. "It's very rarely flat," said Newell.
Though they top the table, Nottinghamshire have not had much luck this year. Newell signed Stuart Broad in place of Ryan Sidebottom in the expectation that he would play for England in the one-day internationals and would be available for Nottinghamshire for two-thirds of the season. As it is, Broad played in six of the summer's seven Tests.
Newell also assumed that when Graeme Swann was chosen for the one-day side he would be covered by Samit Patel. As it turned out, Patel has been chosen for England ahead of Swann. And when Newell imported a swing bowler with a good action from Australia named Darren Pattinson he so impressed selectors Geoff Miller and James Whitaker that he was lost to Newell for the duration of the Headingley Test. At least that is unlikely to happen again.