Sunday, June 25

Bears on Tour - Chelmsford

It's been a little while since Stephen and I last did one of our cricketing escapes, circumstances meaning we hadn't seen much cricket at all in 2017 thus far. A week in Chelmsford would be the perfect way to put that right so with cases packed and train tickets in hand we embark on a few days of sporting spectatorship in Essex...

- A County Ground Clue -
With the four day County Championship match due to begin on Monday 19th June, we travel down the day before (via Euston and Liverpool Street) then settle into our Premier Inn accommodation - the hotel is ideally located just over the road from Chelmsford railway station. Once checked in we can get our bearings around Chelmsford city centre including finding the Cloudfm County Ground on the side of the River Can. An evening pint at the Ale House (a bar tucked away among the railway arches) allows us to preview the game and hope that Warwickshire can improve on their disappointing start to the season.

- Judge Tindal's Statue -
Monday morning brings with it sizzling sunshine and an excellent Premier Inn breakfast (I already miss the scrambled eggs, black pudding and Bubble & Squeak) before we say hello to Judge Tindal on our way to the ground. Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal was a celebrated lawyer who in 1820 successfully defended Queen Caroline against charges of adultery - his statue can be found in Tindal Square outside HSBC. To cricket matters and Essex win the toss, choose to bat and spend the day compiling a healthy 263 for 5 thanks largely to knocks from Nick Browne (84) and Ravi Bopara (84 not out). It's also a thrill to see Alastair Cook in action, England's record Test match run-getter contributing 39 to the home cause. 

- Chelmsford Cathedral -
Monday evening means Moulsham Street where supper comes courtesy of Robinson's (a Chelmsford chip shop institution for well over 100 years) which we follow with a call into the Cricketers, a Gray & Sons pub just up from St John the Evangelist Church. Into Tuesday and Chelmsford Cathedral takes its turn for some morning photography before we watch Essex pile on ever more runs. Bopara takes his tally to 192 and is ably assisted by James Foster (121) in 541/9 declared, an ominous total that has the Bears stuttering to 60 for 2 in reply. Stephen and I are still hopeful though, especially as key Bears batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott will be leading the chase on the third morning. Our optimism is confirmed over a chat in the Railway Tavern, a classic Chelmsford boozer where the Meow Mild has me purring in appreciation.

- Hop Beer Shop, Moulsham Street -
Wednesday sadly brings a fair amount of woe for Warwickshire as Essex take a firm grip on the game. Bell and Trott both departed relatively quickly, and while Sam Hain made his first Championship half century of the season, it was mainly through the pugnacious efforts of Jeetan Patel (71) that the Bears reached 283 all out only to be asked to follow on. Chief destroyer was spinner Simon Harmer with 6 for 92 and he soon added to his collection with the second innings scalp of Trott, lbw to the final ball of the day (a decision that prompted a bout of Beardsmore umpire heckling). The precarious predicament is discussed at length at our next choice of evening establishment, Stephen and I therefore being worried in the Woolpack - the pub itself is a lovely backstreet Greene King place situated opposite the historic Hall Street building where Marconi based his first radio factory.

- A Pavilion Picture -
Thursday naturally brings a sense of trepidation as we wonder whether Warwickshire can hold on for a draw. Any threat of a thunderstorm soon subsides (the weather was great all week) but there is little relief out in the middle where Harmer continues to hypnotise batsmen with his offbreaks. Resistance is in short supply sadly despite Tim Ambrose's stoic efforts; the Bears are bundled out for a mere 94 to lose by an innings and 164 runs, their fourth innings defeat in six games played - ouch! Harmer surpasses his earlier haul with 8 for 36 giving a heroic total of 14 wickets in the match.

- The Queens Head -
The carnage of the Warwickshire collapse means a consolatory drink is required. The Queens Head on Lower Anchor Street is close to the ground and owned by the Crouch Vale Brewery; we first came in on Monday night to be greeted by two cute pub dogs (one wearing a bow tie no less) but this time around the pub is a haven for Bears fans licking their wounds. A pint of Black Fox Porter (or lemonade and blackcurrant for Mr B) soothes our disappointment although the threat of relegation is starting to loom large unless a few wins can be found from somewhere.

- Homeward via Liverpool Street -
The Royal Steamer and the Railway Tavern (more Meow Mild) have the honour of being of our closing Chelmsford watering holes and then Friday morning allows for one last breakfast indulgence prior to our homeward journey. Our Greater Anglia train to London Liverpool Street is hauled by a unit named after Sir John Betjeman which poses poetically at the terminal platform, after which some tube trickery conveys us thus to London Euston and another cricket caper is complete. Hopefully the next time we watch Warwickshire we might witness a win!

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