Leicestershire v Hampshire, Grace Road, County Championship, 22nd August 2012
“June and July bring in cricket’s gold of the year; August finds the game, like the sun itself, on the wane. Now the sands are running out every evening as the match moves towards its close in yellow light; autumnal colours darken play at this time of year; cricketers are getting weary in limb, and even the spirit has lost the first rapture.” (Cardus – The Summer Game)
Not this year though, not at Leicestershire.
Without access to a calendar, I think any visitor to this match would have guessed it was taking place in May or June. The outfield was luxuriant, the trees were in full leaf without a hint of Autumnal tinting and the Leicestershire players seemed refreshed and looking forward to the prospect of a successful season. Which they may be – though it’s probably next season, or the one after that. Following this perpetually youthful, self-renewing Leicestershire side means always living in hopeful anticipation of a future that never quite arrives, as the better players graduate elsewhere and new hopes take their places.
Soon after I arrived Thakor was left stranded on 85* as Leicestershire were bowled out for 356 (he now averages 81.75 for the season). Hampshire – to mounting excitement from a surprisingly large crowd – were skittled for 181 with 4 cheap wickets for Hoggard, 3 for White and 3 for lanky paceman Alex ‘Pussy’ Wyatt.
Wyatt made his debut in 2009, but has generally only appeared to cover for injuries. At 6.7″ he can give the impression of a manufactured fast bowler, as though someone has said to him ‘You’re a big lad – have you ever thought about bowling fast?’ He has a tendency to ping the ball harmlessly over the batsman’s head and has rarely looked very threatening. On Wednesday though he removed Hampshire’s 3-5 (Katich, McKenzie and Dawson) in a spell where he looked – briefly – unplayable. Perhaps in time – given a bit of strengthening and conditioning work – he might bloom into our Finn, our Tremlett, our Garner (ah these dreams of Spring!).
Leicestershire (as I’m sure you know) won the match by 126 runs, to prise themselves off the bottom of Division 2.
With two (or in some cases three) games to go, seven of the nine sides in Division 2 have won two games, which is roughly where we ought to be in June, with most of the season still ahead of us. I think it is now mathematically impossible (or highly improbable) for Leicestershire to be promoted, although we are only 24 points behind third placed Yorkshire. Perhaps the ECB could follow the example of Mr. Gove and – at the last minute – revert the scoring system to the days before bonus points?
Not everyone, of course, is full of hope for the future (or not in cricket, anyway). Paul Dixey, who has largely been kept out of the side by the simultaneous arrival of Ned Eckersely, has announced he is quitting the game altogether and Will Jefferson – who was struggling around the ground on a pair of outsized crutches – followed suit by announcing his retirement on Saturday.
Of course, no game this season would be complete without at least one downpour. Here we see rain moving swiftly in over Leicester, as seen from the top of the pavilion. Ah, these April showers!