Perfect and impromptu: the easiest nights out | Jack Marshall's column

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It was all too easy.

A friend had texted our group chat asking when we’d all next be free for a drink. Soon, we all agreed. With the weather improving, our most recent night-out shrinking in the rear-view mirror, and holidays booked for late July and August, we quickly settled on a weekend - a minor miracle for any group chat in existence. Easy.

Then someone noticed that Lancashire Lightning, the muscled bish-bash-bosh T20 arm of Lancashire County Cricket Club, were about to play the Birmingham Bears in their final group game of this season’s Vitality Blast. Beat them and a home quarter-final at Old Trafford was in the offing on our nominated Friday night.

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We decided, if they got through, we’d go. The mighty Lanky duly obliged, prompting a digital scurry for tickets - £12.50 each, job’s a good’un. Easy, easy, easy. While the forecast had looked typically underwhelming, fast-forward to the day and it was all bright blue skies. To paraphrase, it was all coming up Milhouse.

Old Trafford Cricket GroundOld Trafford Cricket Ground
Old Trafford Cricket Ground

A few pints deep post-beer garden catch-up, we grabbed a Maccies and got the tram to Old Trafford. Swayed by the weather and the drink and the company, we each emerged from the scrum with a nifty four-pint container for the game. The city skyscrapers framed against pure blue, the cider was going down dangerously easy in the slowly-falling Manchester sun.

Lanky the Giraffe, the team’s mascot, danced about, chants rolled through the crowd like Mexican waves, and Lancashire won. Each boundary was punctuated by fierce spurts from nearby fire cannons, singeing a sun cream-slathered crowd. As the throngs dispersed onto bustling concourses, new choruses of ‘oh, Lanky, Lanky’ broke out amidst long shadows.

Back in the city, we alighted on a pub with ping pong and pool, moving on to a place with lightly oven-blackened stone-baked pizza after a few hours. Friday rolled into Saturday as drink tallies reached the double figures. Friends made their excuses until just three of us were left, happily greased. The last train long gone, I crashed at a mate’s in Didsbury.

It was one of those nights, you know the kind: impromptu, spontaneous, easy. And the best.