Not Dark Yet, and a Farewell to James Benning

Leicestershire v Kent and Leicestershire v Hampshire, Clydesdale 40 overs, Grace Road, 30th August and 4 September

As the poet Wordsworth put it –

“We poets in our youth begin in gladness But thereof come in the end despondency and madness”

And so it so often is with the cricket season.  Not actual madness, of course, county cricket rarely goes to those extremes, but a certain degree of despondency (in the case of Leicestershire, who have numerous problems off the field) and an element of sadness.

This week saw the last two games (for those who aren’t going through to the semi-finals, which none of these sides are) in this strangely half-cocked competition, which seems to spring up randomly throughout the season.  Leicestershire lost the first (to Kent) and won the second (against Hampshire).  Many of the regulars were injured or resting.  Both drew decent crowds, with a surprising number of visitors from both Kent and Hampshire, the latter perhaps attracted by the novelty of a game being played on a Saturday.

There were a few notable incidents.  Against Kent, Taylor was out lbw for 0 for the third time in 7 innings (I bet you could have got good odds against that happening*).  Against Hampshire Harry Gurney took 5 wickets.  Tom New stood up to Hoggard’s bowling and took a stumping off a wide. 

From nowhere a football appeared on the pitch and Josh Cobb had to remove it.

But really the whole thing had the feel of the last week of the holiday season in a seaside resort.  All clothing in the club shop was reduced.  Mars bars were 3 for a pound in the Meet.  The crowds were determined to enjoy themselves, but had half a mind on work and the winter.  The entertainers were looking to put on a show, up for the odd end-of-term prank but tired, a few fearful for their prospects.

For some this will have been their last time at Grace Road (there is a four day match next week, but the forecast is poor).  I heard a club official saying to an elderly member “I hope to see again next year” (half-joking, I think, about the financial situation) : the man replied “I hope I’m here next year too” (meaning, I think something slightly different).

As I exclusively insinuated when I wrote about the 2nd XI match at Fairfield Road (see here), James Benning is leaving the club, so it will have probably been the last match for him.  Conceivably, too, his last county match anywhere (though that would be a shame).  He bowed out in a certain amount of style with a brisk sixty-something, was cheered from the field and briefly appeared on the balcony to wave (or point) farewell.

Not all farewells are final, of course.  A party of old players were at the match (there for some dinner, I think), ruddy-faced and blazered.  Among them was Ken Higgs, signing old team photographs for some mature autograph hunters.  “It was just the Southerners who were good looking” he remarked to one.  Debatable. 

*(Allegations that the youngster might had been offered first prize in a fixed meat raffle by the Mister Fixit of a notorious Melton Mowbray betting syndicate have been strongly denied by the player’s spokesperson, a Mrs. Taylor of Melton.)

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