Close of Play

The summer draws ever nearer to its close and autumn beckons.

The latest marker of the turning season to rush past was the last match of cricket’s County Championship, which ended yesterday. It was a disappointing finale for my local team, Glamorgan, who had a chance of winning promotion to Division 1 having spent most of the season in second place in Division 2. However, after a feeble first innings batting performance against Derbyshire – and a lot of rain here in Cardiff – they could only draw their final game. Meanwhile, third-placed Worcestershire responded to a generous declaration by first-placed Sussex by scoring 306-6 in only 55 overs to win with time to spare. Thus, Sussex and Worcestershire (who got relegated last year) get promoted back to Division 1, while Kent and Essex (who were promoted last year) get relegated. Better luck next year for Glamorgan. Nottinghamshire, by the way, won the Championship.

In the end it was quite an exciting final day of the county season but since it’s now all over until next spring it seems appropriate to mark the end of the County Championship with one of the classic cricket poems, Close of Play, by Thomas Moult.

How shall we live, now that the summer’s ended,
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
And all our cricket deeds and dreams have blended —
The hit for six, the champion bowled for none,
The match we planned to win and never won? …
Only in Green-winged memory they abide.

How shall we live, who love our loveliest game
With such bright ardour that when stumps are drawn
We talk into the twilight, always the same
Old talk with laughter round off each tale —
Laughter of friends across a pint of ale
In the blue shade of the pavilion.

For the last time a batsman is out, the day
Like the drained glass and the dear sundown field
is empty; what instead of Summer’s play
Can occupy these darkling months ere spring
Hails willows once again the crowned king?
How shall we live so life may not be chilled?

Well, what’s a crimson hearth for, and the lamp
Of winter nights, and these plump yellow books
That cherish Wisden’s soul and bear his stamp —
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
Time’s ever changing, unalterable score-board,
Thick-clustered with a thousand names adored:
Half the game’s magic in their very looks!

And when we’ve learnt those almanacs by heart,
And shared with Nyren … Cardus ….the distant thrill
That cannot fade since they have had their part,
We’ll trudge wet streets through fog and mire
And praise our heroes by the club-room fire:
O do not doubt the game will hold us still!


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One Response to “Close of Play”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Notts both won more and lost more games than Somerset, whose late run they just held off. Who dares wins! (To American friends: cricket matches can finish as a draw.) Meanwhile Lancs end the season yet again in the middle of Division 1, and just below Yorkshire (gah!) – it is good to see northerly teams in 4 of the top 5 slots. Also, Flintoff gives up his rehab and announces that his ankles and knees are forcing his permanent retirement from all forms of cricket, even as a batsman only. Thanks for all the memories Freddie!

    England’s defence of the Ashes begins in Australia on November 25th…

    Anton

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