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

Lancashire v Middlesex, 12-15th September 2016.

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Having visited the place just once in my life prior to this April – and that only in its guise as a music venue – Old Trafford has become something of a second home to me over these last five months. Sixteen days, have I seen, of the County Championship, two of Test cricket, a couple of forays into the limited overs competitions and a good number of appointments at the physiotherapy clinic located within the ground for treatment on a back complaint that probably hasn’t been improved by spending so much of my summer sat on uncomfortable plastic seating – both the worst and, indeed, the best I have found to be at The Oval.

Old Trafford has changed during my time here and so have I. The new hotel that will match The Point is steadily taking shape, whilst my knowledge of modern cricket has improved at a similar rate. From knowing nothing to now being able to bluff my way through a conversation with an array of facts and names. Although, true enlightenment on some of the finer points is still some way off.

It is with a sense of sadness and a bit of a stiff back that I take my seat for the final home game of the season.  Continue reading

Lancashire v Somerset, 31st August 2016.

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The reputation that Manchester has for precipitation had given me the impression that a season following cricket at Old Trafford might see me spending more time under an umbrella than under a blue sky. The city and rain seem synonymous with one another – so much so that there is a bar in its centre paying homage to Manchester’s frequent wet weather. Despite this, County Championship games at the home of Lancashire have, so far, been reasonably unaffected – at least in my presence.

The visits of Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Yorkshire have all passed without interruptions. Warwickshire’s four day stay during late June saw the loss of just the very first session of the match. Only against Hampshire did I experience any real delay with the third day being cut short just before the lunch break. However, on this the final day of August, meteorological matters threaten to descend this game with Somerset into farce. Continue reading

Surrey v Lancashire, 24-25th August 2016.

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Before this season I’d have been hard pressed to tell you what a cricket ground looked like. Having only ever watched the sport through the medium of television, all I ever remember seeing was the bowler on his run-up, whatever action took place on the wicket and then the ball being followed to either the boundary or a fielder, backdropped by the crowd or, if I was lucky, the flash of a pavilion. Possibly the camera would then cut way to a few faces on a players’ balcony. Any long shots would generally be obscured by a superimposed scorecard.

Apart from their general shape, pretty much the only information my brain retained about these grounds was the knowledge that one of them was neighbour to a large gas holder, but as to which one it was I didn’t have a clue. I was also completely unaware, until my first visit to Headingley, that the home of Yorkshire cricket shared a stand with a rugby team – two separate entities with their own distinct personalties, fused together like conjoined twins. Having ticked off the other five Test venues from the 1990s earlier this season and not seen a single gas holder, it’s rather fitting that I should find them at the last of these that I should visit – the home to the final Test Match of the Summer – The Oval. Continue reading

Lancashire v Yorkshire, 13th August 2016.

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In the introduction to Neville Cardus’ collection of twenty years worth of Roses Match reports, he stated that removing himself from the press-box and stepping away from the action had resulted in him being responsible for the fall of a great many wickets for Lancashire. In not dissimilar circumstances, I found myself the taker of a wholly unwanted six-fer on the opening day of this clash between the Red and White Rose Counties.

Not just a clash of counties, but also a clash of sports. Cricket against football. It being a Saturday in the middle of August, the Premier League is due to kick-off and my team, Everton, are at home to Spurs. The first game of the season and the first official time in charge for a new manager, Ronald Koeman, under a reasonably new regime. Having booked the weekend off work well in advance, I am faced with a dilemma. Continue reading

Glamorgan v Derbyshire, 19th July 2016.

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There can’t be many grounds at which it’s possible to hit a twelve, but at the home of Colwyn Bay Cricket Club it most certainly is. The number 12 bus – the local Rhyll to Llandudno service – passes through Rhos-on-Sea every ten minutes and even stops tantalisingly on Penrhyn Avenue, its top deck visible above the wall and providing a large target for the batsmen to aim for in their own seaside shooting gallery. Continue reading