Friday, 17 March 2017

Busy time for the postman

Posted by Tony Hutton

The expected avalanche of cricket related mail has started and two important A.G.M.s take place tomorrow, Yorkshire at Headingley and the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians at Derby. I shall be at Derby and look forward to hearing the retiring president M.J.K. Smith make his farewell speech.

The first of the cricket yearbooks to appear was the excellent county second XI annual edited by the indefatigable Howard Clayton. This provides a wealth of information about the host of players who appeared in county second eleven matches last season.
I have now been able to work out who all the unknown players for Northants seconds were at Market Harborough against Yorkshire. In fact Northants selected no less than sixty one players in their side last season, some of whom may make the grade but sadly the majority will no doubt return to obscurity.

Next to arrive was the equally admirable Cumberland county cricket year book edited by  Michael Latham who had again produced an excellent volume with many colour photographs which make this probably the best county yearbook you will find. One of his photographs was well worth selecting. This shows the Norfolk historian and their scorer with what should win the T shirt of the season award.

This volume has detailed match reports and scorecards of all Cumberland's Minor Counties games last season, pen pictures of all their players and photographs of every ground on which they have played home matches. All the county's records are there in abundance as well as a complete review of all the league cricket in the county last season. One sad note is the number of small village teams which can no longer carry on due to a lack of players, which I know is a growing problem in other parts of the country.

The latest to arrive, in mid-afternoon in fact, was all the Yorkshire literature for the coming season. The funeral of President John Hampshire is taking place today and we are told that the club have nominated Richard Hutton to take his place. An extraordinary general meeting will take place at 9 a.m. on Friday 7th April before the start of the opening county championship game with Hampshire at Headingley to confirm his election.

Lots more still to come no doubt!

Monday, 13 March 2017

1927, a shorter season

posted by John Winn

The forecast for Oxford on Thursday is dry with some sunshine, light cloud and 14 degrees Celsius. This should make both playing and watching cricket tolerable when Oxford University take on Gloucestershire in a one day friendly in The Parks. To say that such an inauspicious match marks the start of the cricket season will invite derision from many and I wrote a year ago about the stuttering start the English  summer game makes compared with its American cousin. But had I been in the Oxford area on Thursday, which I will not be, I would have been very happy to join what is likely to be a small but discerning crowd and make the first entry in my 2017 cricket diary, First class cricket will begin on March 28th, three days earlier than last year, when the MCC Universities take on county opposition. See our previous posting for all the early season fixtures.

So the season begins earlier and earlier, championship matches on April 7th, and yet stumps will not be drawn for the last time until almost the end of September with the ultimate round of county matches not beginning until the 25th of that month. All of which would have seemed incredible to our forefathers for whom cricket, at whatever level, was essentially played from the beginning of May to the end of August. With this in mind I have consulted my copy of Wisden for 1927, price five shillings, to see what the cricket season looked like 90 years ago.

1927, when Vera Lynn was 10, George V was on the throne, Stanley Baldwin was PM, the average house cost £619, an Atco mower from 30 guineas, Cardiff City beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, 1-0,

Wisden's five cricketers of the year were Bill Woodfull, Bill Oldfield, Harold Larwood, George Geary and John Mercer and less than 1p would get you your copy of  The Westminster Gazette, 'best morning paper for all sports'. The season began with cricket at Fenner's on April 27th, 'Seniors' Match', and the championship three days later when champions Lancashire entertained Warwickshire at Old Trafford. Yorkshire became Cambridge's first opponents the following week and on April 7th followed in Doctor Foster's footsteps with a trip to Gloucester. Highlights of that match were a stand of 274 between Holmes and Sutcliffe and a century for Wally Hammond and victory for Yorkshire by an innings and 21 runs. After Gloucester, Major Lupton's* men went to Cardiff and began their home campaign at Dewsbury with the return match with Gloucestershire, another innings victory. This marked the beginning of a run of six home matches, with Hull, Sheffield and Huddersfield among the venues.

The visitors that year were New Zealand, not yet considered worthy of test status. They began with a match against Hubert Martineau's XI on his private ground in Berkshire and finished off playing Leveson-Gower's side at Scarborough on September 10th (2 days). In between they had visited, among other places, Kettering, Broughty Ferry, Galshiels, Chiswick, Whitehaven and Wisbech. The championship just squeaked into September with games at Hove and Swansea beginning on August 31st, Lancashire retained their title, I never promised an easy read, with Notts second. There was of course no 'white ball cricket', and the season finished with its traditional festivals at Scarborough and Folkestone. For those within striking distance of North Marine Road, the programme comprised Yorkshire v MCC, Gentlemen v Players, MCC South African XI v Mr CI Thornton's XI and the tourists match. Only the third of these appears to have been affected by the weather. Not a bad cricketing holiday.

*Major Lupton, Yorkshire's amateur captain, played in 29 championship matches that year, went to the crease 23 times and scored 168 runs at an average of 8.84. He was replaced at the end of the season by Herbert Sutcliffe, a decision to which 'exception was taken by some members' who objected to the notion of a professional captain or would have preferred Rhodes. Sutcliffe cabled from South Africa to turn down the offer and the committee turned instead to Captain William Worsley, who had previously declined the captaincy in 1924 for business reasons. He did a little better than Lupton, but not much, and stood down after two seasons when he was replaced by Alan Theodore Barber shown below with his parents in 1929 after a game as captain of Oxford University

Copyright O Clissold

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A rare voice of reason

Posted by Tony Hutton

With the new cricket season fast approaching there is perhaps a feeling of apprehension rather than anticipation. The continuing debate about the future of T20 cricket in this country seems to overshadow all else. Added to which we now have proposals for increased disciplinary sanctions involving soccer style red and yellow cards.

Listening to some wise words from first class umpire Steve Garrett at the Northern Cricket Society last night gave some encouragement, in that he felt on field discipline was not a serious problem in the county game, although it certainly is in the recreational game.

The most sensible article on cricket's future I have read recently came from Simon Heffer in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. For instance he writes ' to some cricket lovers what happens in T20 is either an irrelevance, or an intrustion into somebody else's private grief. It is cricket, but not as we know it, or want to know it. Crowds may pour in, but it appears to have done little to encourage interest in long form cricket. All it has done, indeed, is cannibalise it.'

I also like his idea of county clubs running seperate T20 and first class teams, which is already in place for the Australian international sides. When the T20 team plays at home, the first class team plays away. His idea of returning to one division for the county championship also appeals to me, with games played over three days and a minimum of 120 overs per day.

Heffer feels that this would allow real cricket to breathe. It would allow it to survive when T20 has bored everyone to tears. I particularly like his comment on the lack of marketing of the county championship, as I have campaigned for years for a 'Match of the Day' highlights programme on T.V. Championship cricket is an excellent product but it needs to be sold like anything else.

For the present however we are stuck with the current ridiculous fixture list, with all the proper county cricket crammed into the beginning and end of the season. Come what may, hypothermia or not, I am planning to be at Fenners on 28th March to greet the new season.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Fixtures for March and early April

posted by John Winn

Many of our readers will no doubt be aware that the county championship begins in a little over a month's time, Friday April 7th, an early start which is reflected in dates for  the counties' warm up matches, hence this list of fixtures.

March 16th Oxford MCCU v Gloucestershire (1 day) The Parks

March 19th Somerset v Gloucestershire (3 days) Taunton

March 22nd Sussex v Surrey (3 days) Hove

March 23rd Somerset v Glamorgan (2 days) Taunton

March 24th Oxford MCCU v St Edward's School (1day) The Parks

March 27th Sussex v Somerset (2 days) Hove
                    Glamorgan v Gloucestershire (1 day) Cardiff

March 28th Cambridge MCCU v  Notts (3 days) Fenner's
                    Glamorgan v Cardiff MCCU (3 days) Cardiff (Swalec)
                    Gloucestershire v Durham MCCU (3 days) Bristol
                    Kent v Leeds/Bradford MCCU ( 3 days) Canterbury
                    Leicestershire v Loughborough MCCU ( 3 days) *
                    Oxford MCCU v Surrey ( 3 days) The Parks
                    Warwickshire v Northants (2 days) Edgbaston

March 30th Sussex v Hants (2 days) Hove

March 31st Warwickshire v Leicestershire (50 over) Edgbaston

April 2nd   Cambridge MCCU v  Lancashire ( 3 days) Fenner's
                   Essex v Durham MCCU ( 3 days) Chelmsford
                   Hants v Cardiff MCCU ( 3 days) Southampton
                   Northants v Loughborough MCCU ( 3 days) Wantage Road
                   Oxford MCCU v Warwickshire ( 3days) The Parks
                   Yorkshire v Leeds/Bradford MCCU ( 3 days) Headingley
                   Glamorgan v Notts (2 days) Cardiff
                   Kent v Surrey ( 2 days) Canterbury

April 3rd    Notts II v Yorkshire II ( 2 days) Lady Bay, Nottingham
                   Worcestershire v Gloucestershire ( 2days) Royal Grammar School Worcester
                   Middlesex v Durham ( 2? days) Merchant Taylor's School

April 6th     Hants II v Lancashire II ( 2 days) Southampton

April 7th    County Championship begins

* some sources give this match as being played at Loughborough but I have confirmed with Leicestershire that it will be at Grace Road.
According to the Notts website their second XI is playing at Loughborough University on this date (28th March for 3 days) against presumably a University 2nd XI.

5 days cricket in The Parks in Match, not sure what CB Fry would have made of that. In any case he had better ways to spend the early spring days for on 20th March 1895 he pleaded guilty to extinguishing five street lamps in Oxford High Street for which he was fined £2 plus 7/6d costs. The alternative was fourteen days in jail.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Langbaurgh Land

posted by John Winn

The minutes of the Langbaurgh League AGM, held on February 6th, are now published and they confirm the resignations of Craythorne and Skelton Castle from the league. Westerdale CC have been admitted to the league from the Eskdale League.

The net loss of one club, sad as it is, has left the league conveniently with twenty teams and, as one might expect these will be organised in two divisions of ten. Moorsholm are reprieved from relegation by virtue of Craythorne's resignation.

Having been away from home for much of the last two weeks I had missed the announcement of the draw for the 2017 National Village Cup which this year will be sponsored by Pipers' Crisps. The first round will be played on Sunday April 30th and holders Sessay will play Scarborough Beckett League Champions, Staithes, away.

 In Scotland,  Falkland CC, always strong opponents in this competition are away to Kilmacolm with the other three Scottish entries receiving byes. Sessay's opponents in last year's final, Kent outfit Sibton Park, will travel to Castle Hill CC who play their cricket in Brenchley near Tonbridge. The full draw is available at

Sessay CC, near Thirsk

Friday, 24 February 2017

Art imitates life in Ambridge.

posted by John Winn

In a posting I made at the beginning of the month 'Not a new problem' 'Anonymous took advantage of the comment box which is available at the bottom of each posting to inform me that Craythorne CC, founder members of the Langbaurgh League had resigned ahead of the 2017 season citing shortage of players as their reason. Just two days later anonymous was in action again adding another postscript to the effect that Skelton Castle CC, also longstanding members of the league had given up the fight and had folded. The writer added that Westerdale had applied to join the Langbaurgh which would involve leaving them the Eskdale League, a competition he/she believed to be struggling.

Such turbulence is not unknown in this part of Yorkshire, I have posted on several occasions about clubs folding and this time last year reported the closure of the Cleveland League. Anonymous added the Langbaurgh AGM was scheduled for the 7th of November 'where all the changes should become clearer'. Alas that meeting is still being advertised as a forthcoming event and more than three weeks on there is no news that I can find from the league as to the various comings and goings and no fixtures for the soon to be with us season. The darkness was lightened a little by the Skelton Facebook page which although it had confirmed as far back as December 3rd that it would not be running a Saturday senior side in 2017 'due to the dwindling number of senior players in the area' it will continue to promote junior cricket. Evidence that it is committed to this worthy aim is clear from its subsequent Facebook postings.

My wife and I have been away for a few days in Upper Teesdale this week and I chanced upon an interesting snippet in the Teesdale Mercury, which has good coverage of local cricket including reports on Barnard Castle of the NYSD, Evenwood (Durham Cricket League) and Middleton-in-Teesdale (Darlington and District). It is perhaps this last connection that led it to report yet another club going out of business, namely Brompton on Swale CC, relegated from Div A of the D&DL last year and unable to raise a side to play in Div B this season. Their ground is visible from the A1 and from now on it would appear that the local footballers will have full use of the previously shared facility. 

There can be few followers of club cricket that are not aware of the decline in participation, particularly amongst the upper teen and early twenty age groups and followers of The Archers, of which I am one, will be aware that Ambridge CC are facing the same problem, namely a shortage of players. Here  skipper Harrison Burns has proposed the radical solution that women should be allowed to be members of the club. Not over our dead bodies said enough of the more dinosauric members this week, so where to now? Harrison is a man not to be trifled with for as well as captaining the cricket team he is also the village bobby. Watch this space or listen to Radio Four.

Not for the first time the photograph accompanying one of my postings has no connection with the article. It was taken on a fine summer's evening in 1972 at the playing fields of my old school showing the players in a match between staff and students. Staff, with the help of a couple of ringers, managed a win. My dad is by some distance the older of the two umpires, those who know me may see the resemblance, but I am not sure it will help you recognise me on the photograph.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Byzantine, a variety of Greek,intricate, tortuous

posted by John Winn

With the prospect of some sunshine in the next few days and Tony having reminded us in yesterday's posting that in six weeks willow and leather will renew acquaintance, you might be feeling upbeat this morning but unless I have gauged our readership wrongly I am about to bring you back to earth. The source of my irritation is an article published in The Times last week by Elizabeth Ammon, aka 'Leg Side Lizzie', in which she reveals  details of the ECB's new Twenty20 competition to be introduced in 2020. The article is based on access Ms Ammon has had to a memo that has been sent to county executives.

As far back as July news broke that the ECB was planning a radical overhaul of English cricket and at that time it seemed possible that the changes might be introduced as early as 2018. By October the start date had been pushed back to 2020 in order that it would become part of a new TV deal when the current one expires in 2019. Driving the leaked proposals, the sweetheart of ECB Chairman Colin Graves and Chief Executive Tom Harrison, is the creation of a T20 competition that will rival the IPL and Australia's Big Bash, the basics of which are
  • Eight 15 man squads to include three overseas players, 13 of whom will be chosen via a possibly televised draft, the remaining two will be wild cards chosen after the Nat West Blast is finished
  • All county players, unless they opt out,  plus any overseas who wish to be included , will also be in the draft in three different salary bands
  • The tournament will run from mid July alongside a fifty over competition
  • The 36 games will be played over 38 days but England players will not be available as test matches will be played at the same time
The consultation document does not say where the 8 teams might be based and this is likely to be the most contentious issue. Ms Ammon's article goes into detail on the tortuous process of elimination required to get 38 down to the final 2,  and also touches upon issues like the replacement of injured players and the appointment of coaches.

There is no reference  to the county championship which presumably, if it survives at all. will be the bookends of the season. The article offers readers the opportunity to comment and here are some extracts

MR JRG Edwards   'utter Byzantine complexity, little if any thought has been given to the notion of supporter loyalty. 'the slow death of English cricket'

The Fox 'County Cricket died. February 2017 RIP'.

and in the interests of fairness and balance

David Harrington 'This is fantastic news! Maybe it could be the beginning of the end of the counties rule over English cricket. Now there's a happy thought'.

Access to the full article can be gained via twitter @legsidelizzy, retweeted on Feb 10th