Lancashire v Yorkshire, 19th-22nd May 2017.

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The inaugural Roses Match was played in 1867, during what was a bumper year for the fixture. The two sides first met at Station Road cricket ground in Whalley on 20-22 June, an encounter which Yorkshire won by an innings and 56 runs. At Old Trafford, a week later, Lancashire would fare only marginally better, this time losing by ‘only’ 165 runs. In a tough year for followers of the Red Rose, there would be a further defeat, this time inside two days, at Middlesbrough in early September.  Continue reading

Hardrocking in Stretford

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New Road may have Worcester Cathedral. Chester-Le-Street, a 14th-century castle. The Oval, its iconic gasholders. Not to be left behind, however, is Old Trafford where, at certain times of the year and from certain angles, it is possible to view the building which, until last year, housed Stretford’s very own B&Q store. A rather nondescript building it may be – flat, part-corrugated, still bearing the signature colour of the DIY retailer and with a sizeable stick of grey, concrete celery protruding skywards – but what it lacks aesthetically it makes up for, rather surprisingly, in musical history. Continue reading

Lancashire v Somerset, 21st and 24th April 2017.

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Second season syndrome. Sophomore slump. The difficult second album. As soon as the domestic schedule for 2017 was announced, I knew I would struggle to reach the dizzy heights of my debut campaign. That shears had already been taken to the calendar and two rounds of the County Championship had been unceremoniously lopped away – like a rogue gardener cutting the heads off a couple of your prized begonias, before shrugging his shoulders and telling you they’d have died eventually anyway – was old news, but the move to Friday starts threatened to hack my early season action in half. The same work obligations that had given me the freedom to see so much cricket last year, doing the exact opposite this time around. Looking back, 2016 appears to have been the perfect time for me to come back to the summer game. Continue reading

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