Bright Phoebus : No More Clouds, No More Rain …

Leicestershire v Lancashire, CB40, Grace Road, 22nd July

Leicestershire v Yorkshire, County Championship, Grace Road, 26th July

If this was the beginning of June, I’d be feeling optimistic about the prospects for the new season.  Sun reflecting off the windscreens of the cars parked at the Bennett Road end, a shock reverse for England in the first Test setting up the prospect of a classic five match series (ending at the Oval on August Bank Holiday) and new Captain for Leicestershire (for one day matches anyway) in the shape of Josh Cobb leading his side to victory in last week’s match against Worcestershire.

The highlight of last Sunday’s CB40 was an innings of 83* from our latest wunderkind, 18-year-old  Shiv Thakor.  This month’s Cricketer  features an article about the England Under-19s which describes Thakor as the ‘forgotten man’ of the 2011 side (presumably because he hasn’t been selected again this year).  I fancy this will look a bit silly in years to come.

His appearances have been restricted this season, due to A-Level commitments (probably why he wasn’t chosen for the Under 19s again) and it will be interesting to see whether he chooses to go to University or join the staff full-time.  This was a muscular but responsible innings against some wily bowling from old sweat Chapple and some wildly inventive stuff from renegade Yorkie Shahzad that rescued an innings built on some fairly shaky foundations.

When he returned to the pavilion he was greeted as if he were some young Sun God who had personally brought the waste land of Grace Road back to life again – which, in a way, he had.

Captain Cobb didn’t appear in the match, though he was present at the ground (here we see him snaffling an ice-cream from the tricycle that seems to have replaced the traditional van this season).

This was not because his first decision as Captain had been to rest himself.  Apparently he’s injured a finger.

On Friday, there was that most joyous of things, the first day of a County Championship match with not a cloud in the sky, three days to go and all things possible.  Better still, it was against Yorkshire (and a proper Yorkshire side, mostly born in Yorkshire) who had brought the spirit of Proper Cricket with them.  Matthew ‘Boycs’ Boyce, who seems happier batting down the order, #dugin to make a satisfyingly long drawn out century, aided by Thakor, who was batting at no.4.

Boyce had to deal with a varied Yorkshire attack.  There was some good honest seam from the unsung Patterson.  Anthony McGrath (who it seems strange to recall was once selected by England) bowled medium pace, including one slow bouncer that pitched in his own half and looped slowly over the batsman, almost landing on top of the stumps.

And then there was Harmison – on loan from Durham – who bowled what, for anyone else, would have been an extraordinary mixture of wides, almost-wide leg-side filth and one perfect delivery that made a horrible mess of Sarwan’s stumps.

The attack was completed by two players who have made their name on Twitter.  Adil Rashid (who was acting as watercarrier) has been supplanted by off-breaker Azeem Rafiq, best-known for abusing England Under-19s coach John Abrahams, and Moin Ashraf, who is in the unusual position of having a parody Twitter account that is more famous than he is (@OfficialMoinA23).

Having said that, they both looked fine prospects.  It’s not easy to convey the impression of Dandyism while wearing today’s elasticated cricket uniforms, but Ashraf somehow manages it. If marks were awarded for artistic impression, he’d score quite highly.

The match continues as I write.  If only it weren’t the last week in July!  And if only it wasn’t ******* raining again!

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