This week sees the ‘proper’ start to the first class cricket season here in the UK with the first round of County Championship matches; ok there was some first class play last week – essentially warm up games for the counties and a run out for MCC university sides ahead of the Easter break.
March 26! I ask you! The clocks hadn’t gone forward! The first class season in Australia was yet to be completed (ok they muck about with their fixtures like we do with ours) but really? Late March for first class cricket in England! Someone needs to get a grip!
But as the start of the season approaches, the feeling of anticipation and excitement rises just like the childlike expectations for Christmas and just like Christmas – when you didn’t get the gift you wanted – that first ball/over/match of the season didn’t go quite as planned and reality bites. Perhaps the pitch was greener than you thought, or the bowler faster or more skilled in spin than they were last season, or perhaps you’re not as fit as you thought, perhaps the eyesight is going or hand/eye coordination not quite there yet…and the creeping doubt starts that perhaps this will be my last season? If things haven’t improved by mid-summer then perhaps yes…but all you need is a decent 50 or even, heaven forfend, you can make it to a century then ‘I’ll have another think’!
But the new season is new beginnings, new kit to wear, bats to knock in, pads to whiten, or the old stuff to get out, long summer days, warm weather, the occasional shower or two, post match beer to drink, congratulations and commiserations, and a ‘demon bowler’ to despatch to all corners!
This season will be the last in the first class format that we know, begrudgingly love and accept before either eternal salvation or eternal damnation arrives (any similarity to UK leaving the EU is entirely coincidental – unlike Eurovision where we’ll score ‘null points’ this spring, England should score something!).
At least this season the Championship hasn’t been entirely consigned to a Spring and Autumn affair nor have spectators views been ignored with some Monday starts making it to Sunday – marketing types 0, spectators 1. The one day 50 over game is crammed into April and May (oh my Benson and Hedges…long ago) before it has to compete next year in peak summer against the ‘Hundred’ – just like some political and business deals, can’t see how that’s going to work for anyone other than the casual spectator/drinking competitor; but we shall see.
But that’s next year!
This season sees the ICC men’s World Cup here in England and the hype has yet to start in earnest. Tickets have been sold at a range of prices some bordering on the ridiculous (too cheap or so expensive) and most venues should be well attended. India v Pakistan should have some extra ‘spice’ after recent events but let’s hope not, for all concerned on the field and off it!
After the run-fest we return to some normality with a test against new boys Ireland before the Aussie bad boys (and good boys) hit town for the Ashes but more of that as the season progresses. How the current first class fixtures will help assess form for tests remains to be seen, but then the current selectors are as likely to pick a T20 player in form as opposed to a four day one! But then according to Root J tests are won by scoring quick runs as opposed to more runs than the opposition!
But the day by day Championship still attracts – not necessarily at the ground – but on line or remotely in some way. This season sees one team relegated from Division One and three promoted from Division Two to create a ‘better’ competition next year! Numbers shouldn’t matter – skill and quality do!
There’ll be more blogging about the Championship as the season progresses but I can’t see Surrey being beaten as Champions although Essex and Somerset should give them a better test this season; Kent seem favourites to go back down straightaway whilst any three of Lancashire, Worcestershire, Sussex and Middlesex should go up…we’ll look at that again at the end of September.
But for now, everyone is equal, sharing the same hopes and aspirations, the same desires for big numbers of wickets, big innings and new beginnings!
PS seems that the Sri Lankan captain has been arrested for drink-driving; my recollections of Sri Lanka force the questions – how can you tell someone’s driving badly in all the melee that exists? And he must have been very unlucky to be driving along a road covered by the police! C’est la vie!