For the end of the year, a reprise of my accounts of the 2016 season. I doubt I shall ever watch quite so much first-class cricket again, but I seem to have made some hay while the sun shone. Many thanks, and a Happy New Year, to all who have taken the trouble to read, comment or Tweet.
In Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Season I explain my changed circumstances and visit Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. At the former, I discover an evangelical church round the back of the R.E.S. Wyatt stand ; at the latter I unknowingly watch James Taylor bat for the last time. Weather very cold. A Warwickshire supporter corrects my geography.
All the Time in the World I am prompted by the sundial at Wantage Road to muse on the passing of time, James Taylor is forced to retire, and I remember Colin Milburn. It rains, and Ben Duckett is left stranded on 288*.
Monty : my Part in his Comeback I witness Monty Panesar’s return to Wantage Road in a 2nd XI game. I suggest that it might be a useful strategy for Northants to prepare turning pitches and bowl him in tandem with Graeme White. They ignore my advice. Still cold.
In LE2 did Wasim Khan a Stately Pleasure Dome Decree : Works in Progress compares the recent redevelopment of Grace Road to the refurbishment of my patio, and I predict that Leicestershire will be “hard to beat“. Zak Chappell impresses before pulling up lame ; I express the hope that his “Springtime promise has not been nipped in the bud by this cruel late frost” (he is out injured until the last match of the season). It snows.
Cricket, Proper and Improper I watch cricket of both varieties, at Trent Bridge and Wantage Road respectively, and find I enjoy the latter more. I photograph an ice-cream and Duckett bowls an over.
Old Mother Cricket and Old Father Time The sun shines briefly, I compare the English weather to Alan Gibson’s mother, and Leicestershire spurn a chance to defeat Northamptonshire. Duckett makes 2 & 0.
In Praise of the Doldrums I continue my ruminations on the state of the pitch at Wantage Road and conclude that “A respectable, high scoring, performance in the Championship will do, while they put most of their efforts into making money and achieving a flicker of glory in the T20 competition“. Duckett is out cheaply again.
Veni, Vidi, Leachy An outbreak of mass hysteria means Leicestershire are bowled out for 43 by Worcestershire. I compare Grace Road to the Marie Celeste, and a gateman makes a shrewd assessment of Joe Leach’s backside.
Friday Night and Saturday Morning Northants draw with Essex. I compare seam bowling to shift work, and Duckett (who makes 189) to Jimmy Cagney and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Fun, Fun, Fun (Until Arriva Takes the Buses Away) The RL50 arrives, Elsie gets a metaphorical wasp in her drawers and Lancashire channel the glory days of acid house. I refer obliquely to the referendum.
“Time to Join the Real World”? England’s women embrace professionalism. I wish them well, but wonder if that is entirely wise. I hear “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in an unusual context, and speculate that cricket, in England, may become a game played predominantly by women.
Live at the Electric Circus I watch my first floodlit T20, on the evening after the result of the referendum had been announced. Through the drizzle I observe “there is hardly enough time to get fighting drunk in the space of a T20 game” and some lamentable cricket. I miss the chants of “we’ve got our country back” that a correspondent reports in the comments.
Bittersweet Summers : Seaside Special I visit Scarborough, where I am pleased to see a portrait of Lord Hawke in the Grand Hotel. I compare Cardus and Kilburn, and see Gary Ballance make a century (“like watching a three-legged donkey giving rides on the beach : inelegant, at times painful to watch, but astonishing to see it done at all”). I realise I am forty years too late, but resolve to return.
England’s Fitful Dozing I watch an awful lot of cricket, and note a cartwheeling hat, some copulating ducks, “an obdurate, but not inelegant century” by Haseeb Hameed, and a pauper’s funeral. Duckett struggles with the burden of captaincy, and succumbs to hubris in making a pair of single-figure scores.
All is Ripeness : Ripeness is All. Pt. 1. A Hardy Perennial On the day of the ants, I see Trescothick make a century, in what I take to be his late manner. A Somerset supporter writes in to take issue with my analysis.
All is Ripeness : Ripeness is All. Pt. 2. New Blooms, Nipped in the Bud On the hottest day of the year, I visit Desborough to watch the tooze. I make some Biblical allusions, am caught in a thunderstorm, and menaced by a farm dog.
Super Heroes and Scary Creeps My season curdles, soured by a surfeit of sixes. I compare Duckett’s performance against the Sri Lankan spinners to Jack Hobbs, a Yorkshire supporter is ejected for abusing some schoolgirls, and I have more trouble with dogs.
Eckersley in Excelsis I live in the present, and detect about Ned Eckersley “a whiff of Bohemia”. He makes two centuries, but Leicestershire spurn a chance of victory against Derbyshire. They do so again against Northamptonshire, and I re-encounter Sarfraz Nawaz, pursued by ancient autograph hunters.
The Business End of a Squeaky Bum I contemplate the return of the Big Six, fail to make it rain, and watch Leicestershire disintegrate. I am impressed by Alastair Cook.
Mildly Surprised by Joy Northamptonshire, at last, take my advice and prepare a turning pitch. Only Duckett (who is also “in excelsis”) can cope, and plays the innings of the season.
Happy Days and End Games I make out the inscription on the sundial at Wantage Road, enjoy a perfect day at Belper, and watch Leicestershire (and their Over-50s) triumph in their last matches of the season, as do Northamptonshire. I express some forebodings about the future.
Make time, save time, while time lasts. All time is no time, when time is past.