Leicestershire v Northamptonshire, Grace Road, Pre-Season Friendly, 1st April 2014
Well, here’s an early lesson in not looking too far ahead, not to mention gathering rosebuds while I may, carpe-ing the diem and so on. I have not spent the day, as I had predicted, at Grace Road watching the first day of the County Championship because the match against Derbyshire has been postponed, following the death of the Derbyshire wicket-keeper’s father in a car crash.
I did, however, make it there for the first day of the Friendly against Northants, which, following my new policy of lowered expectations, I would have to say was pleasant enough. By 11.30 Leicestershire were 16-2 as usual, all was right with the world and it was if the close season had been but a bad dream. I won’t dwell for too long on the century by new signing Dan Redfern (new signings have flattered to deceive too often before) or allow myself to speculate that if we could find a settled and solid opening pair and a true strike bowler we would have a decent side (true though that might be).
I would observe that Northants, with last season’s match winner Trent Copeland back in Australia, his replacement Jackson Bird and Alex Wakely already out for the season, and David Willey still sidelined with a lower back injury (a pain in the arse for any seamer, as I know from experience) may struggle. Maurice Chambers could be bowling an awful lot of overs and on this showing quite a fewof them could end up deposited over cow corner.
But here’s one to watch, or at least one who’s hard to avoid watching if he’s fielding in front of you and a trend to keep an eye on for the coming season. “The Cricket Paper” led this week on the state of Ned Eckersley’s beard, which he claims he grew “out of boredom” during a five month stay in Australia over the Winter. The story is accompanied by a photograph which makes him look a little like Ashurbarnipal, the late Emperor of the Assyrians.
As any major dude will tell you, this hirsuteness has been in fashion among the cognoscenti for some time now, and looks poised to make a big impact on this year’s County Championship. We could see more beards on show than in the early ’80s heyday of Peter Willey, Mike Gatting and Dave Podmore. Aside from Eckersley, Northants slow left armer Graeme White, returning home after a spell with Nottinghamshire, has adopted a look half way between David Beckham and a young King George V. He has two poses in the field (which is where he spends most of his time) – one with his hands in his pockets
and the other stroking his beard.
This gives the impression that he is deep in thought, ruminating on cunning plans for the batsmen when he is brought on to bowl, but I suspect the truth is that his beard has reached the stage where it itches like fury and he is either scratching it or keeping his hands in his pockets to stop him doing so.
I shall follow his progress with interest and will be interested to see whether the beard is still there come September. My money’s against it.