WRIGHT THINKING: Four days of magic

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One week on, chests which have been beating with pride are just getting back to normal.

As the sun was going down on England’s series victory, there were many Hartlepool people in the crowd, and many back home, who played their part in the magic which happened up the road at Chester le Street over the four days of the historic game.

It was fitting that, as the England players came off, they returned the applause of the crowd who had spurred them on to a win which looked unlikely a few hours earlier.

I’ve been at all the Ashes grounds this summer and, bias apart, I can honestly say that we had the very best atmosphere here on our home patch.

Former England captains Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton, commentating for Sky TV at the game, echoed that feeling and there is no doubt that the occasion was a monumental success.

The pitch itself was highly praised too and local cricket fans will know that it was prepared by Riverside groundsman Dave Measor, who learned his craft as the man in charge at Hartlepool Cricket Club in Park Drive.

Many of the souvenir editions around the match featured some of the early architects of the Durham dream and it was moving to see the smiling face of the late Ken Gardner among the throng, another stalwart of local cricket in his lifetime.

Before the Riverside HQ was finished, of course, Durham were nomads around the county, including several memorable games in Hartlepool sunshine.

Even if cricket is not your thing, you can’t have missed the impact on our region that such a big occasion brings.

The estimate is that about £20 million was brought into our local economy during the game, but I think we had something worth infinitely more.

People before me had the vision to put the ground where it is, with that beautiful backdrop of Lumley Castle on the hillside.

Remember that about a BILLION people around the world will have seen that game on television and that’s the image of our region which will be burned into their memories.

Sky TV used some lovely clips of places like Durham City, and big fans like Sir Ian Botham and David Gower didn’t miss a chance to sing our praises.

I remember David and his team coming to make a TV documentary on the new ground, and we took them for dinner up the hill at the Castle.

When the wine list came, I passed it Mr Gower as the expert.

We’d have finished the ground a year earlier if I hadn’t done that.

Way back in 1994, I was part of the presentation at Lord’s to bring Test Match Cricket here, so you will forgive me purring over a glass of something fizzy.

The following year, 1995, we had our very first First Class game, against Warwickshire, and then the huge honour of her Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh formally opening the ground.

As the picture shows, I still had some black hair then!

What the region needs to do now is to give massive backing to make sure that the big games keep coming here – it’s worth every penny in image, jobs and especially pride.