Thursday, April 5, 2012

County Championship 2012, a frosty relationship.

The batsman could be in for a 'frosty' reception for the start of the 2012 Championship.
Before I start to digress on the forth coming County Championship for 2012, I must rise from my chair, unhinge my helmet and point my willow towards the imaginary pavilion that resembles my office door, as this blog has finally reached 100 posts!

There is that old tale, of a certain tree, falling in a certain woods and lots of people wondering if anyone heard it fall, and the same must be said about reaching 100 posts. I like to think that I am not the only one that reads my drivel on cricket, but you can never be too sure.

The county cricket season is where I fell in love the sport, warm after school evenings on tarmac suburban roads is where I learned the game, but it was here in England with my Uncle watching Hampshire where I saw its beauty.

When the first round of matches begin on Thursday (5 April), the earliest ever start to a season, the forecast is for single-figure temperatures, which could drop to below freezing that night. That will not be unique, as ice has been chipped off the covers during the first day of the county season at Old Trafford in previous years, and David Boon famously felt a long way from his native Tasmania when snow prevented any play between Durham and Worcestershire at Chester-le-Street in 1999.

There was even snow in June during a match between Lancashire and Derbyshire in Buxton in 1975, to the surprise and delight of Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain who was playing for Lancashire and had hit an unbeaten century on the first day – before Derbyshire were bowled out twice for 42 and 87 on a snow-affected wicket after a weekend thaw.

But it does illustrate the risk of starting the season so early, a creep backwards through the spring which has been enforced by the introduction of a Twenty20 Champions League in India in September, which offers potential riches for one or two counties who qualify.

Yet it is the unfortunate, the absurd and the statical history of this domestic competition that draws me in every year, for the formal Sheffield Shield holds its own oddities and wonders (New Zealand once competing as a 'state') or maybe it is the fact that despite my pure indulgence in this form of cricket I rarely see it live. And like many others in the nine to five grind of this economy I catch a glimpse of this cricket between train stations on newsprint, or the final overs on the radio after I have unhooked my tie.

On the odd occasion I have dashed to the (insert sponsors name) Rose Bowl and caught the final 10 overs of what seems to be cat & mouse games, but its the romantic notion that I hold onto of scouring the back pages to see which Australians are performing well, or if a certain international can adjust to life on the road.

I waffle on too much, but this what the county championship brings, an opportunity for silence, to sit and observe cricket in its true form, for was once said by Neville Cardus "There can be no summer in this land without cricket"

And so we smile at the idea of Lancashire starting its defence in the prevailing snow, yet they have been spared a weeks grace for the opening of the season, and we see the enternal hopefuls Somerset begin against the recently risen Middlesex, and may I say even at the expense of my home county of Hampshire, that it is with great joy to see Lords back on the map in Division One.

While the enconomy licks its wounds and dare I say the usually pundits of discontent shall rear their heads to the tune of the crisis of county cricket once again, as it seems they do every year, there is still something of a normality of the season beginning.

Short shifted rows of spectators filling in The Times crossword, player annuals thumbed for the rival response to a archaeological question of sport, boiling tea poured into thick rimmed white mugs. These oddly comforting and quietly civil exchanges, that I dare say have not changed for hundreds of years are integral to the soft beat of a County Championship match. It's possible sitting deep in the enclave of the Compton Stand or hidden on the outskirts of the Oval to believe - if only for a minute - that nothing of consequence is happening elsewhere: no recession and no job losses and no faraway wars. Just cricket.

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