Soggy Trent Bridge casts covetous eyes southward

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The Independent Online

The metaphorical sounding of trumpets announcing the latest multimillion pound development of the Trent Bridge ground could not have come at a more awkward time for Nottinghamshire as a capacity crowd endured a four-hour wait for play to begin yesterday.

Coming so soon after the miracle of Lord's, where the flood left by a near-tropical deluge on the second day of the first Test disappeared within a couple of hours, the question being asked was that if £8.2m could be found to erect permanent floodlights and a substantial new grandstand, would it not be wise to invest something in making sure there was cricket to watch?

To be fair to the hosts, forced to explain to a shirt-sleeved crowd why a lush, green outfield was unfit for play, they were wading, literally, into uncharted waters. Both teams practised on the drier bits but monsoon conditions on Thursday afternoon had dumped another inch and more of rain on to already saturated ground.

"In recent years Trent Bridge has been a ground that has drained pretty well but these circumstances have been exceptional," lamented the Nottinghamshire chief executive, Derek Brewer. "Being so close to a river, with the water table exceptionally high, when there is rain like Thursday's there is nowhere for it to go."

The consequence for the groundsman Steve Birks, in his 11th season at Trent Bridge, was probably the longest night of a professional career spanning 29 years. "We had four super-soppers on the go for 15 and a half hours, non-stop," he said. "We started at 11 o'clock on Thursday and it wasn't until half past two on Friday morning that we finally cleared all the surface water. I haven't seen conditions like these in my career. You might see the water table as high in April, after a very wet spring, but not in late July."

Birks knows where he would be spending money, were it up to him. "What they did at Lord's is the way forward," he said. "The sand-based outfield drains really quickly, as you saw last week. But they spent £1.2m, and it is hard to find that kind of finance, even though you can get most of it back just by saving one day's cricket."

The number of doors on which Nottinghamshire have had to knock to assemble funding for their new stand and offices illustrates the point. Only after securing a £2.5m grant from the East Midlands Development Agency and loans totalling £3.7m from three local authorities has the project, which will raise capacity to 17,000 and make Trent Bridge the first English Test ground with permanent floodlights, been given the green light.

But yesterday's problems will not be forgotten. "When exceptional events happen you always look at what can be done," Brewer added. "When work starts on the new developments next month, we can look at what improvements can be made."