Leicestershire v Glamorgan, LVCC, Grace Road, 12-15th April 2015
So, has it started yet?
(Charlie Fox et al. sing)
It’s time to play the music!
It’s time to light the lights!
It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight!
It’s time to put on makeup!
It’s time to dress up right!
It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight!
The Members (in the voices of Statler and Waldorf)
Why do we always come here?
I guess we’ll never know
It’s like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show
Wazim Khan, Andrew McDonald et al. (in unison)
And now let’s get things started!
Members (in unison)
Why don’t you get things started? Why can’t you get it right?
Charlie Fox, Wasim Khan, Andrew McDonald etc. (with gusto)
It’s time to get things started
On the most sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational
This is what we call the Muppet Show!
Well, OK. I am forced to admit, curmudgeon as I am, that I was impressed. I cannot really fault the concept or the execution of the Open Day, which marked the opening day of the season at Grace Road last Sunday. As you may have read elsewhere, invitations had been sent out to local residents and a crowd of over 1,500 (mostly families with young children) were there to take advantage of the bouncy castle, pirate ship, free lollies and arts and crafts (not really of a kind that William Morris would have recognised). Wasim Khan was, as advertised, on the gate and round and about to meet and greet and the positive impression he is reported to have made on the staff seems, on the basis of a few guarded conversations, to be a genuine one.
A few unformed minds should, at least, have come away with positive associations for a day at the cricket, though it may also have created some unrealistic expectations about what the average day of Championship cricket is likely to entail. If a few of them are encouraged to pester their parents to take them to the cricket again, and a few of them in turn to become hooked on the game itself, the exercise will have been well worthwhile.
There were those of us there, of course, whose minds are far from unformed and by the close on Sunday evening, with Glamorgan having progressed to 294-2, a fair few of those were already resigned to what a rather splendid man with a West Country accent repeatedly announced would be “another long, hard, Zummer“. The same man also insisted that he was never coming back again to Grace Road, but by Tuesday, when, inevitably – such is the nature of addiction – he was back in his familiar seat, things were looking up and Leicestershire responded to Glamorgan’s 513-9 dec. with a respectable 435 (Eckersley 147, Robson 83).
On the last day Leicestershire were set a tantalising but improbable 305 in an afternoon to win, finding themselves in a situation reminiscent of several games last season where, having maintained parity for most of the match, they collapsed painfully and pitifully, like a drunk on to a camp bed, on the last afternoon. At 1-2, I imagine our friend from the West must have been going through his Cassandra routine again, but Captain Cosgrove saved the day with an innings of all the solidity his record and physique suggest to shepherd his nervous flock through to a comfortable draw.
Though I think Citizen Khan’s stated aim (for us to become “the best non-international side in the world“) is, frankly, crazy talk, there is no reason why we cannot win games and have a reasonably successful season. I should be astonished if we were promoted, but surprised if we finished last again. We have three proven run-scorers in Robson, Eckersley and Cosgrove and some promising strokemakers in Redfern, Pinner and Aadil Ali. Niall O’Brien still seems up for a scrap. Freckingham and Atif Sheikh will take wickets, if used in short bursts, though they will concede runs too. Shreck may adapt well to the role of a stock bowler and Raine, Taylor and Wells are all useful medium-fast all rounders (though perhaps too similar to be played together). Naik can hold up an end and take wickets if offered a responsive surface.
In short, we have one good side and a few spares, if not the depth to survive any serious absences through injury or loss of form. What we will struggle to do (and this is true of most of Division 2) is bowl sides out twice on docile surfaces. One bowler of real quality would make a dramatic difference (think of Ajmal last year, Copeland the year before, or even Hogan at Glamorgan) and we must hope that Clint McKay turns out to be that man. He is currently absent on honeymoon and we must hope, too, that he is conserving some of his Vital Energies for cricket.
I am not, incidentally, going to fall into the trap of saying that there is a buzz around Grace Road at the start of the season (I fell into that one too early last year and look what happened). Except for the terminally curmudegeonly, there is always a buzz at the start of the season; it is only when there is still one at the end of it that it is worth making a song and dance about it.