Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye : A Contrived Finish For Hoggard

Leicestershire v Hampshire, Grace Road, County Championship, 19th September 2013

Few things in cricket end in an emotionally satisfactory way, one that satisfies our craving for a sense of resolution or at least aptness.  The majority of County games are foregone conclusions by the fourth day, they dwindle into draws or are arbitrarily truncated by rain.  If a season cannot end with a victory, or just a significant result, a heightened awareness of time passing, even a looming sunset casting long shadows on the outfield (all the old clichés, I suppose) would do.  Distinguished careers should end in triumph or pathos, or anything that seems meaningful really, but not in farce.

It doesn’t help that you can never be sure when the last day (of a game, a season or even a career) will be.  This day at Leicester was certainly my last day at Grace Road this year and my last sight of Matthew Hoggard turning out for Leicestershire.  It might have been the last time anyone saw him in action and may still be the last day of first-class cricket I will see this year.  Although I didn’t know it at the time (and nor did he) the solitary wicket I saw him take in our last game against Worcestershire was the last he will ever take.

In which case, my last day  this season consisted of 9 balls (my luck with the weather seeming finally to have run out).  The third day of the match opened with Hampshire on 364-2 (Hoggard 0-72, Vince 147*), the first day having being washed out completely by rain.  For the sake of the historical record, here is Hoggard taking to the field at Grace Road for the last time as a (potential) bowler

Farewell to Hoggard 1

having a last huddle (he seemed to be making an inspirational speech of some kind, though I couldn’t tell you what was said)

Farewell to Hoggard 2

being helped into position by Mike Thornely and Shiv Thakor

Farewell to Hoggard 3

and returning to the pavilion for the last time five minutes later

Farewell to Hoggard 5

Farewell to Hoggard 3

At 10.35 heavy rain set in for an hour or so and play was abandoned for the day shortly after 2.00, by which time there were, I think, 13 spectators left in the ground (there had probably been 30 at the start of play).  I have to say that at Northampton, where the game was still meaningful, they managed to get on again by 3.30 and I’m fairly sure that they could have done the same at Grace Road without danger to life and limb, if they didn’t mind playing in front of an empty ground.

The deal that had been struck, when they reconvened the next day, was that both sides would forfeit an innings, leaving Leicestershire an improbable 365 to win.  This might conceivably have been an attempt to set up a suitable finale for Hoggard (coming in at 11 with 20 to win, in a fanciful scenario, and leaving the pitch for the last time hoisted shoulder-high to a chorus of “for he’s a jolly good fellow” from a joyful crowd), but, if so, it failed.  Leicestershire were 36-5 within an hour and the presentation prepared for Hoggard was hurriedly moved forward to lunchtime, to ensure that it had some kind of audience (though I’m told by an eyewitness that the microphones weren’t working).  In the event, Tom Wells managed to prolong the game until a decent interval after lunch and Hoggard’s last hurrah as a batsman lasted 16 balls.  The Hampshire players did their best, apparently forming a “guard of honour” to welcome him onto the pitch and the crowd (which, according to my informant, was smaller than for the County Cup final) applauded him off.

Hoggard’s last stand aside, this match saw Leicestershire achieve the unusual feat of coming away from a match with no points at all, set a new record for the fewest points in a season since the introduction of bonus points in 1968 and record our first entirely winless season since we entered the County Championship in 1895.  Consequently, acclaim for Hoggard was rather muted from Leicestershire supporters, particularly on social media: an official Tweet thanking him for all that he had done for the club was greeted with the response “such as?” and worse.

How the man himself feels about all this, I don’t know.  Although his retirement was presented as his own decision, I think he would have liked another year, which he would only have had from Leicestershire in the teeth of considerable adverse comment from the supporters.  Although I think it is impossible actively to dislike the man (I have to say he has always been one of my favourite cricketers) he has never (much to his credit) gone out of his way to ingratiate himself and has been the cause of some discontent on the grounds that he is being paid a salary widely believed to be £120,000 p.a in return for a very limited contribution on the pitch this year. He is also apparently on the payroll until next March, so he doesn’t need to be too hasty about obtaining another position.

At least his exit from Leicester – however deflating and inadequate – was less brutal than the termination of his England career and less acrimonious than his break from Yorkshire.  I’d like to think to think of him as the cat (or dog) that walks alone and that all things are alike to him, but I suspect they are not and that the fact that he leaves Leicestershire in a worse state than when he arrived disappoints him more than might be prepared to admit to.  He has a singular and original personality and I hope he resists the temptation to – as Philip Larkin put it in another context – make a living “pretending to be himself”.  “Springwatch” for preference, “Strictly” if he really has to, but please not “Big Brother“.

Last Of The Heavy Horses : The Return Of Matthew Hoggard

Leicestershire v Glamorgan, YB40, Grace Road, 19th June 2013

Leicestershire v Essex, LVCC, Grace Road, 22nd June 2013

Always a mistake to make too many predictions.  On the credit side of the ledger, my tip that Lancashire would soon overtake Northants is looking an increasingly safe bet, after they beat them in two days at Old Trafford this week.  On the debit side, no sooner had I suggested that “suspicions are growing that we will not see Hoggard in a Leicestershire shirt again” than, having posted a picture of his “manky toenail” on Twitter to reassure us that his was not an injury of convenience, he once again donned the hallowed no. 77 shirt to turn out for us in the Championship.

Before that, we had a YB40 match, scheduled for 1.45 on a Wednesday afternoon, which was about as well attended as you might expect.  We lost (Cobb didn’t fire for quite long enough, despite hitting 6 fours in his 35), but there were encouraging signs in the field that the side are coming together under his Captaincy in time to make a decent showing in the T20.  I don’t personally care a great deal about that competition, but many do and the cash would certainly come in handy.

We almost had an Incident, by the way,when Rob Taylor must have been tempted to Mankad the Glamorgan no. 24, who was – as they say in clerical circles – taking the piss with his backing-up, but – perhaps due to his background with Market Harborough C.C. – he opted to take the gentlemanly option of issuing a gentle warning instead.

Backing Up

Nathan Buck, who’d looked somewhere near his best against Glamorgan, was left out for the Championship match against Essex, as was Cobb.  Cobb seems to have given up on four day cricket altogether, but why Buck wasn’t playing is mysterious (he can hardly need rotation, given that he’s only been back for two or three games).  Hoggard, though, had returned and gave us a glimpse of what might have been if he’d been available in the damp and swinging early season (as opposed to the damp mid-season).

On the Saturday (when, as usual, the crowd was sparse, in spite of the presence of a charabanc party of Essex pensioners) I caught the tail-end of the Leicestershire innings.  I noted, in passing, that Mike Thornley seems to have begun to model himself on Jonathan Trott.  Not so much (yet) in terms of the number of runs he scores as the routine of obsessively scratching away at his mark between each delivery.  Bowler David Masters seemed suspicious about this, or perhaps had caught some variant on the affliction and spent an inordinate amount of time tramping down his footholds, to the puzzlement of the Umpire.

Masters and Thornely

The effect of Hoggard’s return may be gauged by a look at this field (it’s a long time since we saw eight men close to the bat when Leicestershire are bowling).

Attacking field

Hoggard claimed 4-12 to reduce Essex to 28-4 and the possibility of a consecutive Essex collapse, or at least a rare first innings lead for Leicestershire loomed, if not large.  But, when the first over from first-change Thakor went for 14 to relieve the pressure and the fourth interruption of the day for rain or bad light set in, the moment rather passed and Essex finished the day on 196-6.

Even aside from the quality of his bowling, Hoggard did seem a man apart and a law unto himself.  He is visibly from another generation, and, in his Afrika Corps style cap made the rest of the side, in their matching peaked not-s0-baggy greens, look like a side of unusually talented schoolboys.  Factually, at 36, he is at least eight years older than all but Niall O’Brien and 18 years older than Shiv Thakor, though age does not appear to have blunted his appetite for bowling (here he is appealing to Captain Boyce – who was hardly in a position to refuse – for a twelfth consecutive over).

One more?

It is tempting to see Hoggard as the last of his breed (the steam-powered trains, perhaps, or the heavy horses) if it were not for the fact that, after the second string Aussies Hogan and Copeland, the leading wicket-takers this season in Division 2 are Alan Richardson (38), David  Masters (35) and Glen Chapple (39).  This may suggest that modern training methods are prolonging the active life of older players or that they are ensuring that the younger bowlers are permanently crocked. Or it may simply confirm my suspicion that there is currently a dearth of good young English pace bowlers and that those that there are are soon filched by the bigger clubs.

It isn’t too hard to imagine Hoggard keeping going for a few years yet, and, perhaps, not easy to imagine what else he would want to do (personally I rather fancy him presenting an earthier version of Springwatch opposite Kate Humble), but I suspect that, for one reason or another, we won’t be seeing him at Leicestershire after the end of this season.  I felt rather moved to have seen him, on this otherwise chilly, spasmodic and, in the wider scheme of things, irrelevant day, once again ploughing his familiar furrow …

… back to the mark …

Back to the mark

… and in to bowl …


Freak Declarations In The Silly Season

Leicestershire v Gloucestershire, CB40, Grace Road, Monday 27th August 2012

Leicestershire v Kent, LVCC, Grace Road, Friday 31st August 2012

“The M.C.C. have reminded county cricket clubs of the communication issued in April 1932 which pointed out that the ‘freak declaration’ was not in the interests of the game, or in the interests of the county championships. It is clear that the Laws of Cricket do not provide for collaboration of this kind, and to accept it as justifiable in May and June would equally justify it in August at a time when the immediate result of the championship is of great public interest.” – M.C.C., July 1946

This season seems to be entering the silly stage.  At a national level there is the grisly Grand Guignol silliness of l’affaire KP ; at Grace Road a sort of what-the-hell, nothing-to-lose, demob-happy giddiness at the end of a season made farcical by rain.

The Foxes are currently the form team in CB40 cricket and saved their best batting performance of the season for the last game.  Everyone in the upper order contributed (Thakor with 52 and Boyce with 51 outstanding) to a total of 264, the only blemish being their failure to bat out the full 40 overs.  It would be good to think they could reproduce this kind of performance at the beginning of the competition next year, when it still matters.

As everyone knew it would (it had been predicted for 5.00 by the BBC) rain set in shortly after the interval and Leicestershire had their third No Result of the season, enough to lift them over Worcestershire into second-to-last in their group.

The most memorable incident of the day was Mike Thornely (not usually that demonstrative a batsman) breaking one of the windows in that part of The Meet known as the Great Learning Centre (perhaps named after the Maoist opera by Cornelius Cardew).  Captain Hoggard happened to be passing shortly afterwards and announced that the cost of the window would be deducted from Thornely’s wages. Given our current financial position, I’m not sure he was joking.

I have seen the theory aired that anxieties about match-fixing would put an end to the practice of Captains conniving to achieve a result in rain-affected matches.  These dark thoughts don’t seem to have reached the happy land of Grace Road.

At the start of Day 4 (days 2 and 3 had been substantially washed out) Leicestershire were 171-3 in reply to Kent’s 350.  Kent have an outside chance of promotion, Leicestershire’s motivation is to keep themselves off the bottom of the table.

A more hard-nosed Captain of Yorkshire origins (Illingworth, for one) would, I think, have chosen to bat through the day to pick up 5 batting points in addition to 3 for the draw.  More sentimentally, this would also have given Matt Boyce, who was in his eighties overnight, the chance of making his hundred.

Boyce made his debut in 2006 and has held on to his place as an obdurate opener – in spite of a career average of 27.55 – with the aid of some first-class fielding, all round good eggery and (it used to be said) Captaincy potential.  This season he has moved down the order, looked a great deal happier and begun to achieve some more consistency.

Having just turned 27, he ought to be coming into his prime, but is out of contract at the end of the season and I’ve seen no announcement that he’s getting another one (this being the down side of Leicestershire’s otherwise admirable youth policy).

He didn’t look very pleased when, after one ball, Hoggard declared.  (Why they bowled this one ball – other than to waste 10 minutes – I don’t know).  He also had a reluctant part to play in the ensuing farcical morning. The arrangement, as far as I could see, was that Kent would set Leicestershire roughly 300 by lunch, which was achieved by a mixture of proper bowlers bowling properly, proper bowlers bowling half-jokingly (Wayne White managed to dismiss Rob Key with an offbreak) and bursts of outright comedy bowling.

At one point Leicestershire made to leave the field, as if they had fulfilled their side of the bargain – the Kent batsmen called them back, thinking this would leave Leicestershire too much time.  To waste a bit more time Boyce, who hardly bowls, was instructed to ‘come in off his long run’ to bowl his military trundlers, which were duly blocked.

All of which would have been justifiable  if Leicestershire had come anywhere near the target.  Having lost both openers early, however, the innings turned into a grimly drawn-out rearguard action to save the game.  In spite of some resistance in the middle order from Thakor and Boyce and in the rear from Naik and Hoggard, the struggle was lost shortly after 5.00.

Boyce looked, I thought, even more downcast when he left the pitch for the second time in the day (and I do hope it wasn’t for the last time) –

The other folks who I imagine will have been less than happy with the day’s proceedings were Kent’s promotion rivals Yorkshire – the best side in Division 2 – whose season has been comprehensively wrecked by rain.  Kent are now only 4 points behind them, with two games to play.

I’ve no doubt there is nothing Hoggard would have liked more than to achieve a victory, but I wonder whether – given the circumstances of his departure from Yorkshire – he felt very much inclined to do them a favour by denying Kent the possibility of a win by batting the day out.

I thought of putting some of these points to Hoggard as he left the pitch, but he is a much bigger bloke than he looks on the telly (though perhaps not quite as big as he looks in this photograph).

Suspected Cricket Overdose At Grace Road

Leicestershire v

West Indies, Tour Match, 2nd June – Netherlands, CB40, 4th June – Derbyshire, County Championship, 5th June (all at Grace Road)

I’m always inclined to be a bit sniffy about cricketers who complain that there’s too much cricket played (as most of them do).  I’m sure there are accountants who feel that there’s too much accountancy.  If I only had to work three days a week I’d be much fresher and better able to perform to the peak of my abilities.  But after having spent three out of the four days of the Jubilee weekend at Grace Road I’m beginning to see their point.  It felt too much and by Tuesday I was almost looking forward to not returning there until the County Championship resumes at the end of July.

The Jubilee itself was not greatly in evidence.  A bit of bunting and a mostly limp flag to the right of the Charles Palmer Suite.

The first of the three matches was against the West Indies.  I’ve been following the progress of the ’76 tour through back copies of the Cricketer recently (mostly in the Meet when it’s been raining).  They played 26 first class matches (winning 18) and ended the tour on 8th September with a 50 over match against a Northern Leagues XI in Harrogate.  This year they’ve played, I think two matches other than Internationals and this 2-day affair, which was presumably arranged to give them a little practice in between tests.

It was pretty clear that the rain would arrive sooner or later (here a local suggests where it’s likely to arrive from)

and there was just time for Bravo and Barath to show that they can make runs against a depleted Leicestershire attack comprising Robbie Joseph, a couple of promising teenagers (Thakor looking good), Harborough’s own Rob Taylor and Nadeem Malik (Hoggard and Buck had been rotated out of the side).

I’d imagine that the ’76 side proceeded around the country in an almost visible cloud of majesty and awe and would have been mobbed by the local West Indian population wherever they went.  This side seemed a small scale operation, attended by a few camp followers who set up camp in the Charles Palmer Suite, but friendly and approachable.  Chanderpaul, in particular, who wasn’t playing, was happy to delay his lunch to chat with some autograph hunters and others (noticeably as many Asian as Afro-Caribbean).  Even without his sponsored war paint he has an amazingly intense gaze, like some kind of fierce small wildcat suprised in a bush by a flashlight.

In the absence of our few more experienced players, it did give some of youngsters a chance to get a feel for what it would be like if they could stay together and become a formidable side in five years time (which, of course, they won’t).

One day all this will be ours! Unless we’re playing for Nottinghamshire.

Sunday was washed out (by way of variation I spent it listening to a brass band in torrential rain).

Monday saw the visit of the Netherlands.  At Grace Road we like to make our visitors feel at home, and someone had thoughtfully placed this in a window of the pavilion (technically Belgian, but it’s the thought that counts)

If you’d had to guess which of the two sides were the Test-playing side with an awesome history and which the Associate nation I’m not sure it would be a simple matter, except that Holland (the side and their followers) had the feel of a side on the way up.

Although all the players (except their overseas man) are qualified for Holland through birth or residence, they have arrived there by various routes – via Australia, South Africa, England, Pakistan.  I sat between a charmingly dry man from Warwickshire who was the grandfather of one player and a family of Manchester-Pakistanis who were the cousins of another.

The Warwickshire man (who explained that he hadn’t been to Leicester since 1949 – “It was a very diferent town in those days, of course”) turned to me after a few overs of Holland’s innings and asked “Tell me – is this a typical Leicestershire attack?”.  Well, yes and no.  This time Hoggard and Joseph had been left out (I get the impression we’ve written this competition off and are putting all our eggs in the T20 basket) but – without going into details – it was a pretty woeful performance.  The Dutch made 304-3.  When Leicester came out to bat I suggested to my new companion that if they could get our openers out early they shouldn’t have too many problems.  Cobb was out for 0 in the first over and – in spite of a century for Sarwan – there never seemed any likelihood of us reaching the target.

Tuesday saw the arrival of another well-motivated and cohesive side who have built up a head of steam this season – Derbyshire (currently top of Division 2).  Winning this match (unlikely anyway given the weather forecast) was pretty much our last chance to have a chance of promotion this season.  Leicester won the toss and chose to bat.  7-3 ten minutes after the start with a hat-trick for Palladino.

Although we did well – after this start – to make it to 177  it was a day to be endured rather than enjoyed, constantly on the verge of rain and bitterly cold.  Amost every conversation I had with other Members was gloomy  – about Monday’s bowling, Tuesday’s batting, the smoking ban, a perceived lack of leadership, the club’s attitude to the members, the weather …  But perhaps an improvement in the weather and a successful T20 campaign will change that.

I suppose one reason for the Netherlands’ visible enthusiasm and closeness

was that they are a semi-professional side (mostly) and these matches are the highlight of their reason.  For some of the Leicestershire side (and those of the Membership who attend every match – which is the majority) it must have been just another day in what’s already been a wearisome and frustrating season.

Matthew Hoggard’s head down into the wind “ploughman trudge” seems to be getting more marked as the season progresses, and you do wonder how much longer he’ll be prepared to just keep buggering on like this.

In out, in out – it’s a bloody life sentence …


All’s Well That Ends Well-ish (Leicestershire v Northants)

Leicestershire v Northants, County Championship, Grace Road, Day 4, 12th May 2012

There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face …

The classic shot  of two batsmen leaving the pitch at the end of a game, being applauded off by the opposition and (though you can’t see this) getting a standing ovation from the crowd.  But what was the result? What were the batsmen feeling? Hoggard isn’t known for wild displays of emotion, so he probably looked like this when he’d just won the Ashes.  Wayne White could be relieved, in despair or just mussing his hair up a bit in case anyone wants to take his photograph. Mixed emotions, I’d say.

A Leicestershire member could have run pretty much the full gamut of available emotions in the course of what was – in its way – a  Readers’ Digest-style condensed classic of a game.  In order …

  • Pathetic gratitude that we were going to see a full day’s play and that the captains had decided to make a match of it.  Northants had scored 352-7 in their first innings, Leicester had foregone the chance of bonus points by declaring on 38-2 and Northants had done likewise on 26-0.  341 to win.
  • Doubt as to whether giving up the bonus points was such a good idea and whether we were going to be there past about 3.00 as Smith and Kabeer Ali (who’s popped up again like a supply teacher to cover for sickness) went for 6 and 7 respectively.
  • Hope as Boyce (with his statutory solid 30-odd) and the man I see Michael Holding thinks should be captaining the Windies (Ronnie Sarwan) built a solid platform …
  • Elation as Josh Cobb joined Sarwan and played precisely the right innings, combining the power of his one-day batting with some judicious shot selection and resisting the temptation to hoick it over an imaginary ring of fielders down the throat of a real one.  One compensatory aspect of Taylor’s departure has been that it allows the slightly older Cobb to emerge from Taylor’s (surprisingly large) shadow and feel sure of having an extended run in the four-day team, though the elation is tempered by the thought that, if he ever does achieve his full potential, the richer counties will redouble their efforts to lure him away.  Unfortunately on 167-3 Cobb’s shot selection failed him and he was bowled by the pesky Daggett (ITMA) without offering a stroke.
  • Wavering as Ned Eckersley offered Sarwan useful support … victory was seeming less likely, but defeat avoidable too …
  • That familiar sinking feeling … Eckersley trapped lbw by Hall and his odd action for 35, Sarwan out unnecessarily sweeping Middlebrook six short of his century …
  • Resignation as Henderson (who’s now entering his forties) ended up flat on his face in the dirt going for a fanciful run, and Joseph and Buck both fell to the niggly Daggett, having added one run between them.  Last man Hoggard joined Wayne White on 268-9 with 9.2 overs remaining. 
  • Relief turning to delight as the pair of them mounted a classic rearguard action (and who doesn’t love one of those?).  Every ball in the last few overs, with every Northants fieldsman crowded around the bat, received a decreasingly ironic ovation, and when they left the pitch … well, that’s where we came in. 

At the end of the day, though, Leicestershire came away with five points, Northants seven.  And the bottom line is Leicestershire are second to bottom in Division 2, Northants one place above.  A victory for either side would have been enough to take them clear of the pack and join the frontunners Derbyshire and Yorkshire, though I’d like to think that at the end of the day they had still time for a couple of reviving beers before they set off for Gloucestershire.*

The flowerbeds in front of the pavilion, by the way, are looking splendid, after all this weather we’ve been having …

*Unless they were driving there, of course.  In that case, I hope they stuck to the protein shakes.

A Cautious Welcome To The New Season At Grace Road

Leicestershire v Glamorgan, Grace Road, County Championship, 7th April 2012

“Of course it can feel like an exercise in futility, especially when the weather is cold and bleak … The fact remains, however, that even at Grace Road it is still possible to find that enduring bliss, a day at the cricket.” – Colin Shindler in The Cricketer.

Well, my first day of the season wasn’t exactly blissful, but neither was it futile. County cricket is rarely a matter of triumph or disaster (though if you want triumph and disaster twice an over try the IPL, which I’m trying to ignore as I write this).

Returning to Grace Road after the winter break always feels a little like coming home after a holiday – the initial relief that it’s still in one piece, the sniffing around to reacquaint oneself with familiar surroundings.  The old faces were mostly present and correct, there’s been no major redocoration of the Fox Bar, the club shop is still displaying a picture of James Taylor on the front and is still selling off the remnants of last season’s kit at cut price.

There was the odd indication that the ground hadn’t been uninhabited since last September, such as this Christmas wreath propped up against the boundary fence –

This was early season county cricket as it used to be – and, I’m surprised, looking back at what I’ve written about previous Aprils – how few days like this I’ve experienced over the last three seasons, how little time I’ve spent sitting in the George Geary Stand, with a thermos of tea, watching fine rain fall on the covers.

Having arranged to watch the match on the Saturday, I’d been keeping an eye on the scores with the familiar paradoxical feeling that, although I wanted Leicestershire to win, I wanted more for the match to last at least until the end of the third day (Lord, make us victorious – but not yet).  Once I was actually there, the breaks for rain were not unwelcome, as they prolonged proceedings past lunch (this year’s pies are Pukka, by the way) and almost as far as tea (though I didn’t get to sample the cake in the Friends of Grace Road’s shop).

Also contributing to the retro feel of the day were the traditional early season conditions. It made the heart of an Old Seamer glad to see a green wicket, a heavy atmosphere and batsmen poking nervously through the dim light at deliveries that swerved unpredictably, too late for them to change their stroke, their turbocharged bats as useless as the proverbial stick of rhubarb.

As anyone who has been following the match will know, it was Leicestershire’s seamers who made the most of it. Hoggard was in his element and Robbie Joseph finished the match with 12 wickets (a record for a Leicestershire debutant).  It would be nice to think that Joseph could reverse the trend whereby players (David Masters, Darren Stevens) improve dramatically once they leave Grace Road by improving once he’s arrived here.

So, are brighter days ahead at Grace Road?  Well, if Joseph and Nathan Buck stay fit and Hoggard doesn’t lose any more of his famous nip, there’s the makings of a decent pace attack.  The batting looks made for T20, with potentially any number of players capable of making thirty or forty, but it’s hard to see where the big innings are coming from, other than from Sarwan.  Perhaps it’s finally time for Josh Cobb to put his hand up and come to the party (and preferably not one in some dodgy nightclub)?

But, for the moment, let’s allow Joseph to enjoy his moment of triumph …



Just to prove that triumphs are rarely unalloyed in County Cricket, Leicestershire had five points deducted for a slow over rate.  I wonder whether any side has come away from a victory with fewer than 15 points?

Christmas With The Stars … Of Leicestershire C.C.C.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do Twitter, but I am intrigued by the notion of having access to the workings of the minds of today’s sportsmen, unvarnished by the gloss of media training.  I thought I’d have a look at Cricket Tweets, a site which aggregates the Twitter streams of those cricketers who have accounts, and see what some of Leicestershire’s stars (and a few who’ve decamped to Nottinghamshire) have been up to over the Christmas break.
(Warning – this no-holds-barred expose of the sometimes brutal word of today’s professional County Cricketer does contain swearing.) 
As Christmas approaches, solid opener Matt Boyce seems a little underwhelmed by the quality of his Twitter stream –
This was my everest this morning… @adamray112 was getting off the toilet “#comingthroughweasel” http://t.co/AfaKDD95
Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 17, 2011 10:31 AM
as was up-and-coming speedster Nathan Buck –
Time to go home! Great 3 weeks in Potch to get us ready for the Lions tour to Bangladesh. God my tweets are boring. #zzzz
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 18, 2011 1:36 PM
Wantaway starlet Josh Cobb was taking time to reflect on some of the deficiencies of his performance last season, and resolving to do better next year
@mvclayton @mongoosecricket I’ll have a crack in 4 day cricket. Can not do worse than last year ha
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Monday, December 19, 2011 9:26 PM
Unsung hero Wayne White was taking a – no doubt brief – break from his rigorous dietary programme –
beware any takeaways within a 5 miles radius, youre in for a big order.
Updated via web at Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:41 PM
T20 specialist Harry Gurney was at a bit of a loose end following his move to Notts –

Got the flat to myself all night, what shall I do? Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Wednesday, December 21, 2011 5:56 PM

 Josh Cobb had a suggestion –
@gurneyhf: Got the flat to myself all night, what shall I do?” polish the bishop
Updated via Twitter for iPad at Wednesday, December 21, 2011 6:01 PM
(Believed to be a reference to the small bust of Archbishop Cosmo Lang that Gurney keeps on his mantelpiece).  And the consequence was …
Well… The having the flat to myself thing ended up with being in a random karaoke bar in town… Thanks for the suggestions.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:36 AM
On Christmas Eve, lanky paceman Alex Wyatt was on a goodwill mission to my birthplace –
Kettering – one of the worst places to go out. Standard of clubs, terrible, and people even worse #britaingoingdownthedrain
Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 24, 2011 4:16 AM
Well, Alex, I believe they speak very highly of you.  Harry Gurney, unfortunately, was still not usefully occupied –
250 headshots with the ACR, time to find a more productive hobby.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Saturday, December 24, 2011 11:46 AM
Good to see, though, that someone was thinking of their family.  Back to Matt Boyce –
 Welcome @maisiegmorris to twitter. The trendiest 91 year old grandma with her new iPad2! Looking forward to seeing her tomorrow!

Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 24, 2011 3:06 PM
And how about this heartwarming picture of festive domestic bliss from Captain Hoggard –
Merry Christmas to one and all santas drinks and nibbles in the fireplace rudolphs food is ready ernie tucked up alarm set 4ish ? Hope later
Meanwhile, Wayne White was heading out on the town, full of seasonal spirit –
happy xmas to everyone and be safe 2night celebrating. god bless us all x
Updated via web at Saturday, December 24, 2011 7:01 PM
The day itself dawns and crafty twirler Jigar Naik is first with the festive greetings (his punctuation, perhaps, betraying a hint of anxiety about the state of L.C.C.C.’s finances) 
Merry Christmas to all. Have a great day and a wonderful, prosperous new year ????????
Updated via Echofon at Sunday, December 25, 2011 6:56 AM
It’s not clear whether Wayne White has been to sleep, but, if so, he wakes with thoughts of absent friends –
@jamestaylor20 merry xmas james. i miss you x
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:11 AM
Tiny Tim responds with “God bless us, every one”
@wayneAwhite you too! merry christmas Wayne! Have a good one!
and –
@whereaglesdare2 follow luxury menswear brand… 50% Christmas sale please visit http://www.whereeaglesdare.co.uk
But it seems that all is not well with Wayne White –
where is my car?
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:11 AM
mother “did anyone spike your drinks?” “i hope so
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:16 AM
Josh Cobb is full of Dickensian good will –
 Merry Xmas too one and all, enjoy your day and get smashed. #butthendontdrive.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 25, 2011 12:21 PM
But it is clear that something has gone horribly wrong over at the White family household –
@cobby24 So kind! In horrible nick here, family looking at me with Disaproving eyes
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 2:41 PM
@cobby24 More embarrassing telling my mum to f-off as I’m spewing all Over her house
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 2:56 PM
By late on Christmas Day, as the spirit is wearing off, Josh Cobb has discovered an exception to his offer of good will to all men –
 “@LiamJKinch: Have a shit one” miserable bastard

Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 25, 2011 5:51 PM
and Wayne White is in agreement on this point –
@cobby24 @LiamJKinch Horror bloke, imagine his face at the dinner table
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 5:56 PM
(In fairness, having looked at occasional second-teamer Liam Kinch’s Twitter – which I won’t reproduce here – he does seem a bit of a wrong ‘un.)  But on a more wholesome note, over in Smeeton Westerby, noted sociologist Greg Smith is putting his break to constructive use –
Loving the Ukulele that Santa brought me, not sure the rest of my family are enjoying it as much as me.
Updated via Twitter for iPad at Monday, December 26, 2011 10:01 AM
Nathan Buck, however, seems to have spent Boxing Day at the sales in a shoe shop (my best guess as to what he means by this enigmatic Tweet) –
#OFFICE staff excite me
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Monday, December 26, 2011 1:56 PM
And it’s left to Matt Boyce to end Christmas on a note of good old  fashioned farce
My dad has locked my car keys along with my house keys in the boot! We are in Birmingham and my spare key is in Leicester! Busy @acfwyatt ?
Updated via Echofon at Tuesday, December 27, 2011 8:46 AM
Busy he may be, but probably not in Kettering.

Hat Trick for Hoggard as Taylor’s Helmet Shines

Leicestershire v Glamorgan, Grace Road, County Championship, 8 & 9 April 2011

Welcome to Grace Road

Well, here we are again.  This blog will soon be entering its third year, and this will be the third season I have tried to record for posterity, from the point of view of the man in the crowd with the Thermos and the Playfair.  Trying to do this without too much repetition becomes increasingly difficult, though I hope to compensate by the liberal application of deviation.

If you want to know exactly what happened, of course, there are plenty of other places that can tell you.  Even the Guardian made the first day the lead story in their cricket coverage – though their correspondent wrote mainly about the turmoil in the counties’ respective boardrooms (do cricket clubs have boardrooms – or is that just football?).

But there was some serious cricket on offer.  Leicestershire batted first, and soon found themselves in the familar position of expecting James Taylor to play a big innings to pull them out of a hole.  Taylor has just returned from the West Indies, where he averaged 58.55 for the England Lions, and – equipped with an enviable suntan – looked like a man in form.  He moved swiftly (particularly between the wickets – he ran two fully-run fours) on to 45 before just failing to place the ball over the mid-wicket’s head (to the groans of the crowd).  At 125-6 things looked bleak, but Original Kolpak Claude Henderson (in his testimonial year – how time flies!) and a determined Captain Hoggard dragged things back to 238 all out.

The next day – a hat-trick for Hoggard!  The first at Grace Road for 28 years, apparently.

A Standing Ovation for Hoggard


Glamorgan all out for 146!    Leicestershire 78-5 at the close of play!  As to who is going to win this (as the start of play on the third day approaches), I think the smart money has to be on Leicestershire.  Or possibly Glamorgan. 

What else is new?  James Taylor was sporting a new design of helmet.  From a distance it looked like the kind racing cyclists wear.  Perhaps it is aerodynamically designed and grooved so that, if he is hit on the head, the ball will speed straight to the boundary.  It also seemed to reflect the sunlight – which I’d have thought might be offputting for the bowler.  Perhaps it will soon be banned.

The trees around the ground – bare last week – are almost in leaf.

And the new pies?  They’re Pukka.  Pukka Pies.

Postcards From My Own Side : a Reminder From Matthew Hoggard

A card in the post from Matthew Hoggard –

It reads –

“Look Mate

Me and the lads are wondering when you’re going to start writing about the cricket again.  We’ve had enough of the bird-based whimsy and the old postcards.  The season’s starting in two weeks and you haven’t renewed your membership yet.  Get a grip.



Never fear, I shall be there.  I’ve booked my first day off for the 1st April for the second day of a pre-season friendly against Warwickshire.  I’ve never been to a PSF before (at the cricket), and I’m a bit dubious as to what sort of a start to the season it’s likely to provide.  A bit like opening your presents before Christmas day, I imagine. 

In days gone by, of course, my first game of the season would have been MCC v Champion County at Lord’s, a fixture that now (as I’ve complained about before) takes place in Abu Dhabi.  But hang on – isn’t there a bit of unrest going on in that part of the world at the moment?  I don’t suppose there’s any chance … But these are unworthy thoughts, and I shall dismiss them from my mind.


Storm Clouds gather over Grace Road as Hoggard Strikes

Leicestershire v Surrey, Grace Road, County Championship, day 1 (24 August)

Storm clouds gathering –

 as Hoggard strikes (to remove one of the Surrey openers) –

According to most sources – the Guardian, for instance – Chairman Must Go Says Hoggardand Cricinfo, which suggested that Red Hoggo was planning a sitdown protest on the pitch – it should have been an interesting day at Grace Road today.  The various newshounds in attendance must have been a little disappointed by the lack of drama, although I dare say there must have been a bit of an atmosphere in the office.

The gist of the story is that Hoggard had presented a letter to the Board, with the support of Coach Tim Boon and – apparently – the other players, the groundstaff and most of the administrative staff, “demanding” the removal of Chairman Neil Davidson.  This follows on from the resignation of Chief Executive David Smith (K.D. Smith, the one-time Warwickshire batsman), who cited interference by Davidson in matters of team selection.

I find this all a very sad situation.  Davidson I’ve always had time for, because of his robust defence of the interests of the smaller counties.  Smith seemed to be a genuine cricket man (unlike the previous incumbent, who struck me a suit pure and simple).  I like the fact that I’ve more than once seen Smith at Fairfield Road.  There seemed – and indeed seems – to be little difference between their philosophies: both, for instance, are in favour of  (and are now claiming credit for) the policy of reducing our reliance on Kolpaks and developing home-grown players instead (which is now – clearly – bearing fruit).

The point at issue, according to Davidson, seems to be whether the Chairman has the right to interfere in team selection if he feels that misguided selections are effecting the team’s performance in the one competition that he feels to essential to the financial stability of the club – 20/20.  Hoggard’s action appears to suggest that there are wider issues of managerial style involved.

At the Members’ Forum I attended, Davidson criticised Smith for making public the detail of what had been discussed between them.  Hoggard has now made the same complaint about Davidson, claiming that the contents of his letter were not intended for public consumption.  

With some misgivings, I signed the petition that was being circulated to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the members and propose a motion of no confidence in the Chairman, not least because I felt that the grounds for refusing the previous petition (which I hadn’t signed) – that the last two pages hadn’t had the proposal on it and that it hadn’t been presented at the Company Secretary’s office in Nottingham – struck me as fairly spurious.  I did stress, as I did so, that this didn’t necessarily mean I endorsed the vote of no confidence.   

I suspect that, unless you have some first-hand experience of the parties involved (which I do not) the truth of all this is hard to discover.  We shall see what we shall see, but – as I say – all very unfortunate, particularly given the general optimism at the start of the season.

And the cricket?  Hoggard took early wickets while it was raining (which it did – on and off – for the first hour), then Ramprakash scored a century.  In years to come I can imagine some theoretical nippers leafing (or scrolling) through their Wisdens and saying “this Ramprakash – he must have been quite a player.  The last man to score a hundred centuries!”  and me replying “Ah yes – I saw the last of them, you know.  At Grace Road”. – (which it may possibly have been).  But I really can’t remember a thing about it, beyond the fact that he never really looked like getting out.

A curious fact, worth noting, is that both teams’ ex-England stars (Hoggard and Ramprakash) had the squad number 77 on the back of their shirts.  I think this must have some kind of mystical significance, and – as the two 77s clashed – I was rather put in mind of the following hit from 1977 by the reggae group Culture.  Perhaps the brooding, apocalyptic feel of the song might also be appropriate, in light of the goings on behind the scenes at Grace Road.