Close of Play

Yesterday saw the end of this year’s County Championship season, which I take to be definition of the official end of summer.  It’s happened very late this year. Is this the latest end to a County Championship season ever?

There is, of course, an inconsequential 50-overs game still going on between England and the West Indies but the proper cricket is over and done with until next spring. Glamorgan won their last game earlier this week against Kent in three days, and finished 7th in the 2nd Division. Some good performances by young players (many of whom came through the Academy) adding a ray of optimism to what has been a fairly disappointing season (though with one highlight in a semi-final spot in the Twenty20 `blast’). Worcestershire finished top of the Second Division and Nottinghamshire were second, so they’ll both be playing in Division 1 next season. Essex won the County Champions in great style, unbeaten for the whole season.  The main drama on the final day involved who got relegated along with Warwickshire (the latter having been adrift at the bottom of the Table for some time).  Going into the last round of matches, Somerset looked the most likely to go down but they beat fellow strugglers Middlesex. Hampshire clung on for a draw against Warwickshire, giving them the points they needed to overtake Middlesex who will play in Division 2 next season.

Other big news yesterday was the selection of the England squad to tour Australia and play for the Ashes this Winter: Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (wk, Yorkshire), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Ben Foakes (wk, Surrey), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ben Stokes (Durham), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), James Vince (Hampshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire). I’m not particularly impressed with some of the choices (especially Ballance and Vince), and it looks likely that Stokes won’t be available owing to his recent fracas outside a nightclub, but we’ll see.

Anyway, yesterday was also National Poetry Day so it seems apt 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!



9 Responses to “Close of Play”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    As I predicted last week, the battle to avoid the second relegation slot, fought between – mainly – the sides who vied to the last for the championship trophy last season, went to the last day of this season. Congratulations to Essex who came up from division 2 last season and won 10 of their 14 games this year, fully twice as many as second-placed Lancashire.

    If Middlesex want advice on how to regroup having not only failed to defend the championship pennant but been relegated, Lancashire can provide it, having suffered the same ignominy in 2012 but regained promotion the next season.

    Fate prevents the England team from simultaneously containing Stokes, Woakes, Foakes and eight other blokes, it seems.

    • No jokes please.

      • Simon Kemp Says:

        If it was back in the 1970s we could have had a special edition of Blue Peter Flies The World presented by John Noakes

    • Ps. Rumour has it that Middlesex are going to appeal the decision to dock points following the curious arrow incident earlier this month so they may well stay up after all..

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Surely they are going to appeal against it? This is not an American blog.

      • Simon Kemp Says:

        I was surprised Middlesex were penalised for the arrow incident, though I suppose it’s the same as rain stopping play before you have a chance to increase your over rate by putting the spinners on. The First Division relegation race was ridicuously close, with 4 teams separated by two points. Glamorgan would have been relegated from the First Division with the points total they got in the Second.
        As for Glamorgan it’s 7 years since they challenged for promotion and 12 years since they were in the First Division, though every time they go up they go straight back down, (It’s only 20 years since they won the title though, a lesser gap than Essex had between titles).

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I remember them doing it in 1969 !

      • Simon Kemp Says:

        I don’t, I first saw them in 1975!

  2. It’s only a rumor anyway…

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