County Championship (at the Rose Bowl) - first day of four: Warwickshire 30-0 v Hampshire
Four pied wagtails, some swifts, a black-headed gull and a crow provided the highlights of a rainswept day as Hampshire and Warwickshire attempted to get their championship match under way.
Hampshire’s Rose Bowl headquarters presents a pretty untidy sight at the best of times. A steward put it in a nutshell yesterday, describing the arena’s transitional state as “permanently temporary”.
The Northern End of the ground, an array of temporary buildings, wheelie-bins, pallets, breeze blocks and dandelions, is particularly bleak. Add frequent squalls of rain borne in on a bracing sea breeze and the entire scene is in desperate need of a charm transfusion. Fortunately, the birds provided it.
Pied wagtails are a delight. Whether the quartet hopping about the Rose Bowl outfield yesterday were relatives of the pair that frequent Edgbaston from time to time is unknown but, delicate and elegant, hopping and pecking, jostling and twittering, they kept the sprinkling of spectators richly entertained in the morning until heading off in the direction of Havant.
Those spectators peered sorrowfully into the distance to see them off but the entertainment was far from over. Far above – you had to look hard – spiralled a gaggle of swifts, their shrill, cheaping cries barely discernible above the wretched, perpetual roar of traffic on the M27.
Swifts. Joyful, remarkable creatures, spending their entire lives – feeding, mating, sleeping, watching Ian Westwood bat – on the wing. Any glimpse is a privilege.
Soon the clouds thickened and the tiny feathered specks merged into it and disappeared forever. But next came a mystery. A black-headed gull arrived. Now black-headed gulls (more chocolately-brown of bonce, to be picky) are highly-sociable birds.
Usually, they are seen in small groups or large flocks, especially when feeding or roosting. Large colonies exist all along the south coast.
So why was this one alone? Was it lost, perhaps? Or seeking a spot of solitude to ponder a life-altering decision?
Or had it been ostracised? Shunned. Sent out into the wilderness as punishment for some hideous offence. It must have been serious to warrant attendance at a rain-affected day of Hampshire v Warwickshire.
Whatever its circumstances, the poor, dripping creature perched on a cover, gazing reflectively into the middle-distance, before heading for the hills.
At 4.18pm, a crow arrived and the wagtails returned. What a contrast here, the tiny wagtails, busy and nimble, frolicking away while the big black crow, perched aloft on a tent roof, brooded above them like a stern headteacher observing the innocent play of carefree pupils.
And, fleetingly, in amongst prolonged bursts of rains, out came cricketers. After Warwickshire chose to bat, Westwood and Tony Frost collected 30 runs from 13.4 overs against largely ill-directed bowling.
Westwood had his feathers ruffled when struck on the shoulder by a lifter from Chris Tremlett but the batsmen were still aflight when further rain arrived to turn a sorry scene sodden.
n?Warwickshire’s Second XI Trophy match against Glamorgan in Cardiff was washed out without a ball being bowled.