Leicestershire 2nd XI v MCCU Universities XI, Kibworth, Thursday 11 August 2011
“The fact that even in the 1750s the vast majority of matches took place in the early part of the summer suggest that enough of the players were farmers or labourers to make it very difficult to raise teams during haymaking (which normally only began in July) or the corn harvest. At this level cricket was still a peasant game, its timing determined by the agricultural calendar”. – from Start of Play by David Underdown.
Less so these days, of course, and not at all for those who follow cricket via the television, but the coming of the harvest still provides an uncomfortable reminder that the season does not have long to run. On Thursday it made its point rather too directly for my taste.
This was a rather different Second XI from the one who had featured against Northants. The first-teamers were gone. Ned Eckersley (I think – it might have been Dixey) seemed to have got his hands in the gloves. Rob Taylor, who, earlier in the season, had played for Loughborough against Leicestershire, and seems also to be in the MCC Universities squad, featured. Taylor (who I’ve just seen play another fine innings for Harborough) looks a great prospect, and has the considerable honour of being the second best player from the Melton area with the surname Taylor between the ages of 20-21.
The day started brightly (here we see James Sykes bowling from the pavilion End) –
from a neighbouring field there was a distant thrum from a combine harvester
As the day wore on and Leicestershire wore down the students’ resistance the noise grew gradually louder as the harvester worked its way back and forth across the field towards the ground.
A strong wind was blowing from the direction of the wheatfield, and those of us sitting on that side of the boundary began to notice that, with each pass of the harvester, a cloud of dust – fine at first – would puff through the hedge, coating our Playfairs and cups of tea in a chalky film.
As tea approached the players began to look quizzically at the source of these periodic dust storms (stubble burning? surely not rioting?)-
A fieldsman on the boundary pulled his sweater up to cover his nose, eyes were rubbed and throats cleared. The umpires consulted, but decided that visibility was sufficiently good for play to continue.
As the players left the field for tea (and a good blow of their noses) the harvester made its final pass directly alongside the ground, sending a great blast of dust and tiny ears of wheat through the hedge.
By now, even the stoutest amongst us had been forced to take shelter –
Not long now before the dying of the light …