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Unspoilt turf recalls a life long gone

Jon Griffin writes "It had been the best part of 30 years since I had last set foot in the ground – almost exactly half a lifetime".

The sun shines on Scarborough

It had been the best part of 30 years since I had last set foot in the ground – almost exactly half a lifetime.

So much water under the bridge, so many changes, both for me and for the world as a whole since September 1985, when I had last seen my beloved Notts CCC take on Yorkshire CCC at Scarborough.

It was an intriguing journey back to a sporting venue which somehow encapsulates much of a shrinking England still hanging on in there, in the face of unprecedented social change and the unstoppable march of 21st century technology.

Back in 1985, I had travelled to this most glorious of sporting settings in the company of a friend who was to succumb to the ravages of cancer just four years later, still shy of 50.

Now, 28 years later, another long-standing friend had been taken, again by cancer, as Scarborough 2013 beckoned.

Inevitable reflections on mortality made for a wistful, nostalgic journey back to an England under threat – but still there for those who look hard enough.

Scarborough Cricket Ground could come straight out of a Lowry painting. It’s as timeless as walking into the Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, where Dr Johnson and Dickens drank.

Seagulls swooping over the immaculate turf, the red-brick pavilion, the old 50s-style wooden benches, rows of terraced houses overlooking the bowl-like arena... you could almost sense the ghosts of Trueman and Wardle.

There were few under the age of 30 in the ground, apart from some of the players and a few toddlers with families, more ammunition for those who view county cricket as an sideshow in a world dominated by the international game and glitz of the Indian Premier League.

But, for those who do not wish to join the Barmy Army, or salivate over one-day internationals and Twenty-20 knockabouts, the county game remains as loveable as ever.

There’s no artificial corporate prawn sandwich culture at North Marine Road, although the prawns are no doubt delicious. And everybody who was there was there for the undying love of an English sporting tradition which continues to defy the perils of so-called progress.

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