Leicestershire v Northants, Grace Road, LVCC, 26 & 28 April 2015
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away*
April over, May just begun and one sixth of the Season gone. Or, to look at it another way, one eighth of Leicestershire’s County Championship campaign (and a quarter of their home fixtures) over. One draw and one defeat and already the first intimations that the prospect of a successful season is slipping away and even a win sliding out of our grasp. A strange feeling, this slipping and sliding, but familiar, I think, to anyone who has played cricket or followed a team.
To look at it another way, compare the seven hours of the day (11.00-6.00, omitting the Lunch interval) to the six months of the Season (April to September). April is the first hour, when anything is possible and all attention is on the cricket,
May the second session when the first advantage has been gained, but no loss beyond recovery. June and July are a long afternoon session, when the attention begins to wander and the game begins to slide, the day and the Summer to slip away. By the first session after tea the crowd is slipping away, by August the first leaves of Autumn are on the outfield, Winter sports are encroaching and, however hard you try to avert your gaze, the end is in sight. The last session may be the best part of the day, September a glorious Indian Summer or a damp, dimly-lit fading away, but it is a time for looking back, not forwards, because there is nothing to look forward to but the next season.
This slipping away has a dream-like quality to it, an inexorable dream-logic against which reason and will seem useless, all physical action reduced to slow motion. In this game Leicestershire, in the bright confident mornings of the first two days, had established a first-innings lead of 54 and by lunch on the third day had five Northants wickets down for little more than 150. Cosgrove must have emerged after lunch with happy thoughts of a three-day win (and, perhaps, a few well-deserved beers in celebration)
By the time he and his battered team took refuge in the pavilion for tea,
he and they must have been wondering if Mr. Stew had slipped something funny into their lunch, if the afternoon had been just the illusory result of some troubled post-prandial snooze. First Newton and Cobb took away the advantage, then Willey and Kleinveldt had played like batsmen in a comic (THWACK! BIFF!) to take the score over 400. At least six or seven balls went just to hand and slipped out again or clipped fingertips on the way to the boundary, huge clouts aimed over mid-wicket spiralled over the third man boundary or returned to earth, covered in ice, somewhere in the region of an absent extra cover. As we old hands in the stands shook our heads sadly (“they’re letting it slide … it’s slipping away“) the faster the totals on the scoreboard whirred round like the pages of a calendar in a cartoon, the faster Ollie Freckingham hurtled to the wicket
the slower the balls seemed to come out and the faster they flew down the abyss of the leg side.
So, yes, we lost, but it is barely May and tomorrow (or today, as I type) is another day, another bright confident morning. Even in September, there is the comfort that it is only the end of one season and we know another will come, if not for us all. Compare, though, the hours of a cricketing day to the three-score years and ten of a man’s life. The first two sessions are childhood and adolescence, the long afternoon middle age (when we tend to find things slip slidin’ away). The after tea session is, as I have said, when our friends start slipping away early and the last session … well, I am personally at about 4.25 and furtively consulting my bus timetable, so I won’t have to wait too long to find out. And, of course, there is no next game, no new season to look forward to, or, as the poet put it (rather well, I feel) “soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda”**.
With that cheering thought in mind, I look forward to proceeding to Luton tomorrow for some Minor Counties cricket.
* from Paul Simon’s “Slip slidin’ away”. Not a song I particularly liked at the time, but, as it’s come to me unbidden after close to 40 years, it must have something to say to me.
** Suns may set and rise again, but, when once our brief light is extinguished, we must sleep through an everlasting night” – Gaius Valerius Catullus.