Three Sessions And A Wedding

Northamptonshire v Yorkshire, County Championship, 3-4 August

After that brief interruption for cricket, another couple of days ruined by rain.  Some kind of punishment, perhaps, for not doing my patriotic duty by sitting in front of the telly all day.

A pity, because, in its understated way, it had the makings of a fine match.  If the rain could have been edited out, we’d be starting the fourth day with Yorkshire on 74-3 in their second innings, still 29 runs behind and I’d be sitting there looking forward to some gritty digging in to save the game.  It was good to see Adil Rashid back in the groove and claiming five wickets, and I was impressed by Joe Root’s weed-like tenacity at the crease.

As it was, the drill was the same on both days.  A balmy morning (if play had started at 6.oo we’d have been fine), followed by a downpour at lunch.  On the Friday the groundstaff made heroic efforts through the afternoon and play, improbably, resumed at 4.30.  It’s a sign of how desperate both sides are for points that we witnessed the unusual sight of the Captains pleading with the reluctant Umpires to allow play to resume.

On Saturday the rain was so heavy that the ground looked like a scene from a painting by John Martin or Francis Danby

(in this picture the man under the green umbrella is Jonny Bairstow, who must have been pleased to have been here rather than at home in Headingley)

Unfortunately, I missed the announcement that the game had been abandoned, having sought shelter from the storm in the County Ground’s Holy of Holies – The Milburn Room.  This is sort of four-ale bar at the back of the pavilion which seems to have been preserved unchanged since the ‘sixties in homage to the great man.  To make it easier to ignore the cricket altogether they usually keep the curtains drawn –

There I sat, listening to TMS and reading a two page cover story in The Guardian by Will Self, explaining why he feels like an outsider.  If he really wanted to feel like that he should have joined me in the Milburn Room.  When I emerged – in bright sunshine – the ground was empty except for a wedding reception who had occupied the Aspers Casino complex.  When they made their booking they must have imagined that they would be looking out over shadows flitting to and fro o’er the greensward as they quaffed their Champagne, not the captains shaking hands and apparently agreeing to knock off after lunch.

I find it hard to believe that any side have had their season quite as comprehensively ruined by the weather as Leicestershire, but Yorkshire must run them close. At present Leicestershire’s record is P 12 W 1 L 2 D 9, Yorkshire’s P 12 W 2 L 0 D 10.  It’s a sign of how few results there have been this year that Yorkshire are 2nd in the table, Leicestershire last.  If Derbyshire (as one of the few sides who’ve managed to get a few games finished) can win today they will feel justified in counting their chickens.  Other than that, look out for some absurdly contrived finishes as sides grow ever more desperate for points.

Looking around for some kind of precedent for this appalling season, older hands at Derby must be thinking of 1936, when they won their only Championship, and greybeards at Wantage Road, wistfully, of 1912 when Northants achieved their best ever placing of 2nd.

Both years were badly affected by the weather, allowing the less thoroughbred Counties to take advantage.  Roy Webber, in his invaluable work The County Cricket Championship (Sportsman’s Book Club, 1958) describes those years thus

“The 1912 Championship was played under a double handicap.  First, the Triangular Tournament cost some counties their best players for six Test matches.  Second the weather was far from favourable and nearly half (!!! – ed.) of the county matches were left drawn.”

“Derbyshire won the 1936 Championship mainly by virtue of their out-cricket, the contrast of pace by W.H. Copson and spin by T.B. Mitchell proving too much for most of their opponents.  The speed with which they disposed of the opposing batsmen accounted for most of their victories.  As the weather curtailed cricket considerably during the summer eighteen of Yorkshire’s thirty matches (!!! – ed.) were left drawn, thus preventing them from making their usual strong challenge.”

Eighteen out of thirty matches drawn! They didn’t know they were born in them days.

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