White – erm – ‘Smashes It’ As Leicestershire End On A High

Leicestershire v Gloucestershire, County Championship, Grace Road, 14th September 2012

Not quite the end – the last match in the Leicestershire League is next Saturday – but my last day at Grace Road for the year.  Typically, I chose to attend on the third, rather than the fourth day, missing what must have been a memorable end to the season.  Set 236 to win, Leicestershire squeaked home by two wickets in the last hour – the winning runs hit by the Bad Boy of Leicestershire cricket, Wayne White, who was awarded his cap (I sometimes forget such things exist) as he left the field.

I picture the twilight sky dark with headgear (cloth caps, panamas and baseball caps alike) flung in the air, the night air resounding to choruses of  ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow‘ and strong ale flowing in the Fox Bar ’til late into the night.  Or possibly on to the Leicester branch of the Platinum Lace lapdancing chain.  Not how I would have chosen it, but autres temps, autres moeurs, I suppose.

But anyway, the third day was not without its rewards.  Leicestershire began the day on 220-5 in their first innings, in reply to Gloucestershire’s 234, with Thakor on 68*.  Unfortunately, the boy wonder could only add another five and they were soon 236-8, the damage being done by the Cape Town born, New Zealand U-19 player James Fuller (who holds an English passport) and Academy product Liam Norwell.  Though he didn’t do any particular damage, they also featured a young off spinner with a puzzling chest-on action, rather like a shot putter, which several of those watching from square leg could be seen trying to imitate.

Perhaps the first of the post-Ajmal generation.

As so often over the years, it was left to original Kolpack oenophile Claude Henderson (now 40)

to rescue the situation from no. 9, with a slightly manic 34.  He began responsibly, with support from Nathan Buck, but once Captain Hoggard joined him at no. 11, he went haywire, batting as if it were the last over of a T20 final and was caught in the deep off a sort of smashed tennis shot, with Leicestershire on 295 (five short of another bonus point).  But I’m sure – after all these years – he knows what he’s doing.

Gloucestershire began their reply with an interesting innings from Australian Ed Cowan, who seemed to be posing for illustrations for a coaching manual, rather than batting.  I particularly enjoyed his demonstration of the (very) forward defensive

and his judicious leave

I look forward to seeing more of him during next the next two years’ apparently interminable Ashes-athon.

Cowan’s masterclass earned him only 16 off 38 balls (with 2 snicked fours).  Perhaps he was disconcerted by Hoggard’s rustic sledging – “chuck him on the compost heap” being one of the more audible.  Gloucestershire consolidated and seemed to be creeping in the direction of an unassailable lead until at 131-2 (and about 3 in the afternoon) the clouds – quite literally – lifted, the ground was suddenly bathed in Mediterranean brilliance and the match was transformed in moments as Wayne White had three batsman caught by ‘keeper Eckersley in the space of a couple of overs, to reduce Gloucestershire to 136-5.

Gloucestershire recovered to finish on 296, almost precisely cancelling out Leicestershire’s first innings, and setting them 236 for victory – which, as I’ve mentioned, they achieved with two wickets and a few overs to spare.

It seems unsatisfactory and odd to end the season with the leaves still green and attached obstinately to the trees, the outfield as lush as a billiard table and Leicestershire finally hitting their stride.  But there we are – it’s been a peculiar season all round, which I hope to summarise in a later post.

A word of sympathy for Gloucestershire, who finished last as a result of their defeat here, with Northants, Leicestershire and Glamorgan (in reverse order) above them in the table.  I overheard a troubling conversation involving the words ‘Thakor’ and ‘Warwickshire’ at the match, but we are not the only side to suffer the depredations of the richer counties.  Harris is leaving Glamorgan (to improve his chances of playing for England by playing for a First Division county) and Jack Brooks – alas! – has also put himself up for auction.

Gloucestershire too have recently lost their entire seam attack – Hussain and Kirby (neither, admittedly, pure men of Glarster) to Somerset and Jon Lewis added to Surrey’s collection of fast bowlers (a bit like someone who already owns a couple of Bentleys, a Ferrari and a BMW buying a vintage MG to keep in the garage).  No doubt if Fuller and Norwell fulfil their promise, they too will be added to someone’s shopping list.

Derbyshire’s example is encouraging, but I fear we four counties (plus Worcestershire) are all going to be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years.

Still, I can think of far worse things to do with my Summers and – with one last backward look  –

I look forward – God willing – to next year.

(If I’d accepted WordPress’s spelling corrections, incidentally, I wouldn’t be heading back to Grace Road next year.  I would also have been removed from the internet and been sued for libel because I would just have accused Claude Henderson of being a ‘pedophile’.  ‘Oenophile’, WordPress – a wine connoisseur.  Ah, the perils of the Internet age!)

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