Lancashire 2nd XI v Yorkshire 2nd XI, 10th April 2017.

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Lancashire’s preseason has seen them take in a variety of locales, none of which have been remotely local. A tour of Dubai, a university match against Cambridge at Fenner’s, plus friendlies at Taunton and Hampshire. With two further trips southwards to begin the Championship season – to Essex and Surrey – the first competitive cricket at Old Trafford is still eleven days away. Which makes the scheduling of this four-day second team friendly against Yorkshire something of a salve to Red Rose fans starved of live cricket over the last seven months. Continue reading

Yorkshire v Hampshire, 7th April 2017.

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Unsurprisingly for an early April morning with not an inch of blue, never mind a slice of sun, peeking out from under the thick duvet of cloud overhead, the temperature in Leeds is on the chilly side – in a three over spell just prior to lunch, Sean Ervine will remove not one, but two sweaters before serving up a pace it might be overly generous to describe as medium. With only Headingley’s rose-shaped floodlights shining down from above, Fidel Edwards delivers the first ball of the Championship season, which Adam Lyth duly works to the leg-side for a couple runs. 2017, welcome to the crease.

In spite of such uninspiring conditions, it’s a relief to finally be able to concentrate, once again, on activity inside the boundary rope. Ominous skies have hung over domestic cricket all through the off-season as 2016’s glorious summer quickly became a winter of discontent. Durham’s harsh treatment at the hands of the ECB, the thorny subject of Kolpak players and the seemingly unstoppable march to franchise T20 are all issues I hope to write about in the coming weeks, but today is about reacquainting myself with events on the field. Continue reading

Honorable Mentions

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If four words could sum up how strange it feels to be following cricket once again, after two decades in the wilderness, it would be these: The Andy Caddick Pavilion. At the County Ground in Taunton, Somerset have rewarded their former fast bowler with a building that will forever bear his name. Watching England twenty years ago, I certainly wouldn’t have picked him out for that kind of honour. To my, admittedly untrained, eyes he didn’t look particularly special – in truth, neither did the rest of that side. However, during my exile, his career seemingly enjoyed something of a renaissance. Continue reading

2017 Lancashire County Championship Preview

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The five-minute bell will soon ring for the 2017 county cricket season, albeit not for another fortnight at Old Trafford, where the locals will have to wait a further two weeks for the visit of Somerset to put to a long winter to bed. No action may have taken place at the home of Lancashire for seven months, but there has been plenty of activity and intrigue off the field. Continue reading

A First-Class Debut

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Very soon the length of time that has passed since the late September Friday on which Middlesex were crowned champions will be greater than the almost twenty-four weeks required to accomplish the feat itself. Despite this long stretch, only recently has it started to feel like we are truly in the limbo of off-season – at least for me, anyway.

That England embarked on a tour of the subcontinent within weeks of the last County fixture merely prolonged a summer I had hugely enjoyed. Only with the culmination of the Test series in India, just prior to Christmas, did the cricketing year appear to draw to any sort of close.

2017 may have begun, but with England out of Test action until July it seems that cricket is very much on hold for the time being. The return of the County Championship is still some way off – almost two months – so what better time to reminisce over my first year of watching the summer game since my youth. Continue reading

Three Favourites of 2016

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Livingstone & Hameed – Lancashire v Warwickshire, June.

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As Karl Brown departs the Old Trafford field he does so accompanied by the Laurel and Hardy theme, whistled from somewhere in the stands. With a trio of Lancashire wickets lost in the space of five deliveries, the home side find themselves in Another Fine Mess. The stage is set for the Red Rose County’s own mismatched L & H double act – two young cricketers separated by only a couple of years in age, but a lifetime apart in their approach to batting. Continue reading

Haseeb Hameed – a Red Rose in Bloom

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As a teenager, I was thrust into the spotlight of international sport and chosen to represent my country on the subcontinent. Along with a handful of others, picked from the only slightly larger handful of those who actually played the sport, my 17-year-old self travelled to Bangladesh to participate in the 6th Commonwealth Youth Handball Championships – some recent cursory investigation of which has, so far, struggled to find concrete evidence of any subsequent, or indeed, previous iterations. Participation is, perhaps, too strong a word to describe my role as back-up goalkeeper. A brief appearance, including a penalty save, in a fifth/sixth place play-off, wooden spoon loss to Nigeria was to prove the zenith of my sporting achievements. Never again did I scale such dizzy heights. Having been likewise underused in his own visit to Bangladesh, Haseeb Hameed shouldn’t have to worry about a similar fate.  Continue reading

Australia v South Africa, 3rd-7th November 2016.

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Prologue

A bit of grey around the temples. A few thin patches on top. Aches and pains a constant reminder of a long career. Injury now a more common occurrence than a five-wicket haul. Turning the arm over isn’t as easy as it used to be for this once vaunted quick. The scourge of batsmen in his heyday, the extra pace that marked him out above the rest has seemingly gone. Rather than dishing out punishment, it has been he who has been on the receiving end. Five whole days of Test cricket are seen as maybe too much for the now creaking joints and a younger, flashier and more versatile replacement waits to take his place in the line up. Such is the fate of the Western Australia Cricket Association Ground.  Continue reading

Warwickshire v Lancashire, 22-23rd September 2016

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Almost five months ago, I travelled to Edgbaston to indulge my newfound hobby of watching cricket. Warwickshire played host to Yorkshire on a day that was afflicted by flurries of snow, driving sleet and a biting wind that cut through my several layers and chilled me to the bone. Fielders wore beanie hats, the wicket spent a good portion of the day under the hover cover and play ended shortly after the tea break. Returning to Birmingham, this time to watch the Red Rose County, there is a part of me that hopes the weather may affect this game as well.

Lancashire need only a draw from their final game of the County Championship in order to retain their Division One status and, as I arrive on the third morning, it would appear that their best chance of gaining such a result might be via a stalemate guided by the elements. Continue reading