Fings ain’t wot they used t’be

This musical and song from the ‘60s (if dear reader you’re too young to know the song or too mature to remember it, I suggest an internet search!) came to mind today as I rock up to the Cloud Ground Chelmsford to see the first day of Essex v Ireland – a first class status match used as a warm up by Ireland for the Test next week.

In times gone by – and that includes the 1960s – a tourist match would be the match of the season for the counties, guaranteeing a large crowd craving the chance to see the touring sides. So much so that the tourist game against Yorkshire was tantamount to an extra Test, such was the aura and glamour of the fixture.

Over the years however, the status has diminished, counties came to regard it as a ‘bit of a nuisance’, touring sides wanted shorter tours and fixture lists became overcrowded with tournaments; so much so that it is now a rarity not only in England but also across the globe.

So the prospect of a proper tourist warm up match was thrilling until the now-obligatory ‘match pack’ email arrived after dark last night!

Whilst still ‘first class’ all of the Ireland touring squad would be playing? 🤔. But the squad must be more than eleven? The answer it seems is to grant a number of the Irish honorary citizenship of Chelmsford so that they can play for Essex!

This makes the game a bit of a fiasco…add to that the fact that Essex are diverting their main players to Second XI warm up games for next weeks trash/bash and we end up with only one regular First XI player in the side (Browne…and made captain) and most of the rest of the team making their first class debuts! One only having signed a contract this week!

So in essence we have Ireland vs half-Ireland – not a tourist match really; more an intra-squad game but dressed up as a first class tourist game and not as billed.

But we are where we are and ‘fings’ have moved on a lot!

Having said all that, the intensity of the match and the commitment by each and every player was exemplary!

‘Essex’ are asked to bat first on what looks like a benign pitch and whilst the Irish bowlers struggle for a while before exerting scoreboard pressure, Essex reach 100/3 at lunch with Robin Das 50no and 30 overs bowled in the session (we won’t see that at Lord’s next week with the England bowlers taking forever to bowl an over (and you know, dear reader, who I mean!).

This is what it feels like on scoring your first 100!

Das goes on in the afternoon session to score his maiden first class century and is eventually bowled for 132. Over 90 of his runs come in boundaries and to a degree reflects the 7-2 field Ireland set for long periods; his range against the spin of McBrine is either a slog-sweep/sweep or a square cut. Okay…he’s only just 21, so I’ll cut him some slack! He looks a class player in the making – and remember you read it here first!

Young in full flow for all-Ireland
Das – looks a good prospect

Two Irish bats – Dockrell and Adair – score a sound 60/70 each and bat themselves into some kind of nick. Tea arrives at 282/5 with a wicket falling to the last ball. The prospect of over 400 today (32 overs to go and scoring at close to 5 per over) looks mouthwatering -‘Essex’ or half-Ireland seen to have taken Bazball to heart!

But it was not to be – the last five fall for 61 and ‘half-Ireland’ are 343ao with an hour left in the day.

Richards defends!

All-Ireland reach 38/2 by the close – losing two of the top three to excellent bowling by Jamal Richards (last seen last season in the 50 over game). He seems to have gained some pace in the winter and if he can find a more consistent line at times, he could be knocking on the First XI door sometime soon!

Richards in full flow – and not just the hair!

All in all, good cricket and an intriguing match in prospect over the next two days. Sometimes ‘fings’ change for the better but please don’t dress this up as a first class Essex v Ireland match since it ‘ain’t’!


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