The pilgrimage to Scarbados is nearly upon us once again.
Derbyshire are the visitors for the latest Festival fixture, the LV= Insurance County Championship Division Two match starting on Sunday – the 136th in the storied history of the East Coast club with a North Marine Road home to die for.
President Bill Mustoe perfectly sums the place up.
“I first came here in 1971 as a player from Harrogate, where I lived at that point,” he said.
“I’d been for a game at Scarborough, and I didn’t know where it was. I’d never been.
“Anyway, they gave me directions, and I was coming down North Marine Road. I had the sea on my right and all the houses on my left. I thought, ‘There isn’t a cricket ground here, I must be wrong’. I went beyond the entrance and thought, ‘What’s that’.
“When I came through the entrance and this vista opens up before you, I got this amazing buzz.
“Do you know what, I still get that same buzz to this day.
“I don’t know what makes Scarborough, whether it’s the amphitheatre nature of it or maybe fact that everyone’s so close to the action? “The ground is just wonderful.
“The ECB say it’s the best outground in the country, and the players love it and the umpires too.
“Mind you, they don’t like it when they have to call it off and they get stick!”
That brings us to this summer, which hasn’t been particularly pleasant.
We won’t dwell too long on it, but the first Championship against Durham was ravaged by the weather in late July before the second of two Metro Bank One-Day against Lancashire earlier this month was abandoned without a ball bowled for the same reason.
Even the first, against Kent a couple of days earlier, was affected and finished on Duckworth Lewis Stern.
“It’s been the worst summer I’ve seen since I’ve been involved at Scarborough in terms of the amount of cricket lost,” said Mustoe.
“I’ve never seen the ground flooded twice in a fortnight in July.
“The ground staff have been absolutely magnificent. They worked through the night ahead of that Lancashire game, for example, to keep everything as dry as possible, and the rain just kept on coming down.
“Obviously, from a Scarborough point of view, we rely heavily on the 10 days of cricket because – as you’re well aware – we have a stadium that is well regarded nationally and internationally.”
As a venue to watch cricket at, Scarborough is an amazing place, as readers of this piece will no doubt know. The likelihood is that you will have been there and seen many a magic moment.
“We have a capacity of just under 9,000,” continued Mr President, who has been a player, committee member and chairman too.
“We have an infrastructure that’s bigger than six of the non-international county headquarter grounds.
“We’ve just had the West Stand development completed, which has been funded by the local council and the ECB. That’s the stand facing you as you walk into the ground, and the whole place looks like an absolute picture.”
Yorkshire actually played their first first-class match at Scarborough in 1877, 14 years before they played one at Headingley.
Since then, a who’s who of world cricket has graced the hallowed turf.
“Bradman, Hutton, Boycott, Botham, Lehmann. It doesn’t matter who you pick, they’ve been here,” said Mustoe.
“Darren Lehmann still holds the record for the highest ever List A score in Yorkshire’s history, 191 here against Nottinghamshire the day after we won the Championship in 2001.
“There was that famous story about him drinking champagne from his helmet before he went out to bat. I quoted that in the marquee back in July, funnily enough.
“I just thought that I was incredibly lucky when I arrived at Scarborough to play on that pitch and get the odd run or two where all the greats have played.”
So, is the Lehmann innings the best Mustoe has ever seen at Scarborough?
He recalled: “It was a fabulous innings, but I saw Ken Rutherford get 300 in one day for New Zealand against a Brian Close XI (in 1986).
“He got a hundred in each session. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“My father paid his first ever visit to Scarborough on that day. He sat up on the balcony, and we showed him a wagon wheel of this innings. He said, ‘Is it always like that here?’ I said, ‘Yes, yes it is’.”
There is a real excitement in Mustoe’s voice when he says: “It’s a good pitch for batting.” It’s the type of excitement that immediately gives it away that he was a batter in his playing days.
“One very well known Yorkshire head coach (Jason Gillespie) of recent times said that it’s the nearest thing the UK has to the WACA. You get bounce and carry. If you put a bit in, you get a bit out. If you can bat the first hour, runs will come.”
Mustoe’s own playing career was an impressive one and brought many a highlight.
“We won the National Knockout in 1972, and I got a ton in the lead-up to the final at Lord’s. That was the first time we won it,” he recalled.
“We’ve won it five times in total, and I think we’re still the only club to have won that competition five times.”
Scarborough’s first team play their cricket in the Yorkshire Premier League North. Unfortunately, they are third bottom and still in relegation danger with one round remaining.
They will hope their “rebuild” includes avoiding the drop when they travel to Sessay on Saturday.
“We’ve had Jim Love in this year as head of recreational cricket, and it’s all about what we can build that side of things back up,” said Mustoe.
“The number of cricket clubs have declined over the last 10-15 years, and the number of teams at clubs has as well. Players have a lot of other things they can do instead of playing cricket.
“It’s harder for us being on the coast to get the number of people who want to play cricket and the level of player required to have success in what is a very competitive structure.
“It’s much easier in places like Leeds and York.
“This has been the hardest year for the club in terms of playing.
“We’re trying to attract younger players.
“We will have had 120 days of cricket on North Marine Road this summer, 54 of which have been devoted to youngsters. Of that 54, I think 16 are all Yorkshire age-groups.
“We’re delighted to host those because youngsters are the future of the game.”
Mustoe says: “The game has changed such a lot.”
His comment relates to the recreational side of things, but also rings true for the professional game.
One thing that remains as strong as ever, though, is the bond Yorkshire Cricket lovers have with Scarbados.
Mustoe said: “It’s all the tradition of generations – grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters, they all come up and book into the town, which has a population of 60,000 in the winter and a quarter of a million in the summer.
“They come here and want to see cricket, and they play on the outfield at lunch and tea.
“It’s all part of the family and welcoming atmosphere that Scarborough has.
“Yes, there has been a lot of changes in cricket and life over recent years, but people still want to come here. If the weather forecast is good, the trains and roads will be full.”
Mustoe references the family atmosphere, which extends to Yorkshire’s current playing staff. The late David Bairstow’s ashes are scattered at North Marine Road, and whenever Jonny is there he always heads behind the West Stand, where there is a memorial plaque, to visit his old man.
A new 10-year staging agreement between YCCC and Scarborough was signed in 2021. It is fantastic news for everyone, not least those locals who benefit financially.
“In an average year – and this hasn’t been one – we would have 30,000 people come in to watch cricket,” said Mustoe. “And that’s worth over £5m to the town in terms of guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, travel.
“It is a very significant thing for the town, which is why the council back us like they do.”
In terms of what Scarborough make, Mustoe admitted: “It’s difficult to say because we haven’t had an average year for a while. But do I think this is going to be a poor year for us.”
Home is where the heart is for Adam Lyth.
Going forwards, Mustoe is hopeful that Scarborough will be able to hold most top-level cricket.
“We would love to host more games such as a Cup quarter-final or a Lions Test Match, women’s games, things like that,” he said. “We have the infrastructure, and we’re making as many representations as we can to Yorkshire and the ECB.”
First things first, though, and to this weekend when one of Scarborough’s most famous sons, Adam Lyth, will look to score first-class century number four on his home ground.
“We’re looking forward to seeing him again, and hopefully he can score runs in a Yorkshire win. That would be ideal,” added Mustoe, who of course knows just what it takes to score the odd run or two at North Marine Road.