A Cautious Welcome To The New Season At Grace Road

Leicestershire v Glamorgan, Grace Road, County Championship, 7th April 2012

“Of course it can feel like an exercise in futility, especially when the weather is cold and bleak … The fact remains, however, that even at Grace Road it is still possible to find that enduring bliss, a day at the cricket.” – Colin Shindler in The Cricketer.

Well, my first day of the season wasn’t exactly blissful, but neither was it futile. County cricket is rarely a matter of triumph or disaster (though if you want triumph and disaster twice an over try the IPL, which I’m trying to ignore as I write this).

Returning to Grace Road after the winter break always feels a little like coming home after a holiday – the initial relief that it’s still in one piece, the sniffing around to reacquaint oneself with familiar surroundings.  The old faces were mostly present and correct, there’s been no major redocoration of the Fox Bar, the club shop is still displaying a picture of James Taylor on the front and is still selling off the remnants of last season’s kit at cut price.

There was the odd indication that the ground hadn’t been uninhabited since last September, such as this Christmas wreath propped up against the boundary fence –

This was early season county cricket as it used to be – and, I’m surprised, looking back at what I’ve written about previous Aprils – how few days like this I’ve experienced over the last three seasons, how little time I’ve spent sitting in the George Geary Stand, with a thermos of tea, watching fine rain fall on the covers.

Having arranged to watch the match on the Saturday, I’d been keeping an eye on the scores with the familiar paradoxical feeling that, although I wanted Leicestershire to win, I wanted more for the match to last at least until the end of the third day (Lord, make us victorious – but not yet).  Once I was actually there, the breaks for rain were not unwelcome, as they prolonged proceedings past lunch (this year’s pies are Pukka, by the way) and almost as far as tea (though I didn’t get to sample the cake in the Friends of Grace Road’s shop).

Also contributing to the retro feel of the day were the traditional early season conditions. It made the heart of an Old Seamer glad to see a green wicket, a heavy atmosphere and batsmen poking nervously through the dim light at deliveries that swerved unpredictably, too late for them to change their stroke, their turbocharged bats as useless as the proverbial stick of rhubarb.

As anyone who has been following the match will know, it was Leicestershire’s seamers who made the most of it. Hoggard was in his element and Robbie Joseph finished the match with 12 wickets (a record for a Leicestershire debutant).  It would be nice to think that Joseph could reverse the trend whereby players (David Masters, Darren Stevens) improve dramatically once they leave Grace Road by improving once he’s arrived here.

So, are brighter days ahead at Grace Road?  Well, if Joseph and Nathan Buck stay fit and Hoggard doesn’t lose any more of his famous nip, there’s the makings of a decent pace attack.  The batting looks made for T20, with potentially any number of players capable of making thirty or forty, but it’s hard to see where the big innings are coming from, other than from Sarwan.  Perhaps it’s finally time for Josh Cobb to put his hand up and come to the party (and preferably not one in some dodgy nightclub)?

But, for the moment, let’s allow Joseph to enjoy his moment of triumph …

 

 

Just to prove that triumphs are rarely unalloyed in County Cricket, Leicestershire had five points deducted for a slow over rate.  I wonder whether any side has come away from a victory with fewer than 15 points?

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