last game of the cricket season (again)…

I’ve seen a reasonable number of cricket matches this season but, as always, I really did intend to watch far more games than I actually did. I’ve watched a number of Gloucestershire games at Bristol and Cheltenham; I’ve managed to see a couple of Bedminster CC’s matches; I’ve watched an evening Twenty20 game at Bristol; at long last (thanks to my lovely brother), I’ve seen my first Test Match (the first day of the Ashes series at Edgbaston). I TRIED to watch games at Taunton on two occasions but one day was rained off and, frustratingly, another finished a day (or was it two days?) early.

Over the years, I think I’ve blogged about the ‘last game of the cricket season’ a number of times. Well, this is another one! Today, I went to day one (of four) of the Somerset v Essex match at Taunton. As it happens, the first day was the only day I could get there… so, despite the weather forecast (cloudy morning, rain in the afternoon), I decided to go along. Sadly, the rain came a little earlier than forecast and so there was less than two hours play (in which, ridiculously, spinners were bowling from both ends after 70 minutes!). In the play that did take place, Somerset more or less blew their chances of the Championship (75-4 after winning the toss). Somerset’s veteran opening batsman (and local hero) Marcus Trescothick is retiring at the end of the season. He hasn’t been able to secure a place in the first team for most of the season, but I would have put money on him scoring more than Somerset’s openers today (Vijay 6, Davies 2).
It’s a CRUCIAL game. Somerset, who have never won the championship, are lying second place – just 12 points behind championship leaders Essex. A win for Somerset would win them the title but, sadly, the weather forecast for the next three days is: rain/some thunderstorms all day; cloudy with a chance of some drizzle; and rain all day… so it looks odds on ending up as a draw and with Essex being crowned County Champions.

Sadly, as I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions over the years(!), the County Championship game has been relegated to being played predominantly at the start (8 games April-June) or end (3 games September) of the cricket season – with only 3 games being played July-August. For goodness sake, it’s October next week! I thought cricket was our beloved ‘Summer Game’… but apparently not. I freely accept that the limited over games make for good entertainment – and that they’re money-makers as far as the clubs are concerned – but, grumpy old man that I am, I don’t really think they represent ‘proper cricket’.

Interestingly, at the end of an exciting England v Australia Ashes series - in which various ‘cricket experts’ have been rueing the poor batting by the England team (which most have put down to the concentration on one-day or twenty-over cricket) and their inability to adjust to Test Match cricket over 5 days – the BBC’s cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew, advocated scrapping the Championship’s current two division and, instead, forming a single division of 12 teams (at present, there are 18 teams in the two divisions). Well, whilst I agree with much of what he says, this raises a number of crucial questions, for example:
1.  If you have a single County Championship division of 12 teams, this would mean that space would need to be found to accommodate four extra 4-day games in each team’s fixture list. In a game which is dominated by one-day cricket and Twenty20 games these days, how would this be achieved? (Please don’t tell me that the powers-that-be would start the cricket season in March and end it in October!).
2.  Oh, and of course, the powers-that-be are going to introduce an “action-packed, unmissable new 100 ball cricket competition” next season featuring “8 brand new city-based teams” (don’t get me started!) at Middlesex (London), Surrey (London), Lancashire (Manchester), Yorkshire (Leeds), Warwickshire (Birmingham), Glamorgan (Cardiff), Nottinghamshire (Nottingham) and Hampshire (Southampton). How will they squeeze these in to the fixture list?
3.  Oh, and if you effectively eliminate six county sides from first class cricket (ie. reducing from 18 to 12 – see paragraph 1), which teams would you save and which would you cull? Assuming the ‘Hundred’ teams listed in paragraph 2 are ‘saved’, which of the following are you going to save (choose 4) and which are you going to cull (choose 6): Somerset? Gloucestershire? Durham? Sussex? Worcestershire? Kent? Essex? Leicestershire? Northamptonshire? Derbyshire? Are you going to contact unsuccessful clubs and tell them the good news? Are you going to speak to the new owners of a wonderful balconied apartment overlooking the cricket ground in Bristol (or Taunton or wherever) and tell them that they won’t be able to watch first-class cricket from their lofty towers in future?

Hey ho! Despite the limited period of play today due to the rain, I actually really enjoyed what I saw (and despite the Somerset wickets!). So that’s it for another season… it’ll be fascinating (and maybe somewhat depressing?) to see what the powers-that-be come up with in the way of fixture lists next year! 
Photo: James Hildreth (Somerset) batting with ex-England captain Alastair Cook (Essex) at first slip.