2017 Extras

It is sometimes said that the whole world is on YouTube, certainly it has the interview with John Cleese by Cricket World, who recalled when his first trip to Clarence Park, Weston-super-Mare,  was the most exciting thing in his life and when playing the game was more about honour. The Spirit of Cricket well remembered.

In 2017 many Championship fixtures were drawn, so credit to the players  who continued to work hard, even when the games were going nowhere and spectators in attendance were sparse.

The T20 Blast drew crowds of 20,000 plus to  the Home of Cricket on more than one occasion and when Middlesex took a game to Old Deer Park, a record number turned up there as well. It would be fair to add there were some obvious limits to the interest of a cosmopolitan crowd in the capital on a night out, large numbers were not turned away from ODP (gate 4,000 that evening) and a very noticeably smaller number attended  Surrey’s quarter-final against Warwickshire, the Friday evening before a bank holiday. 14,000 tickets were pre-sold said the Sky commentator rather anxiously  as the cameras panned the empty seats. As for the wisdom of two t20 domestic  competitions from 2020, this seemed a bit bonkers at the beginning of the season and still seemed that way at the end of it.

A first for the blogger was an afternoon watching a WCSL fixture, Surrey Stars versus Western Storm, £5 a bargain. Plenty of free hitting and a highly competitive  match.   In the afterglow of winning the World Cup the women’s game looks like it could grow and grow; spectators who were new to the game of cricket came as did those who have been before, touches of colour appeared in parts where, so far, in the men’s game it hasn’t.

Not good was the day when a nut with a bow let go of an arrow. It landed on the Oval, the players took cover and the pigeons moved over. It could be said that all is well that ends well although, security wise, some things can always go better and hopefully they will, if one day they be needed.

And finally, Rory Burns was out, and also off, 30 minutes or so from the end of the Surrey v Hants Championship match in July. The Surrey captain and opening bat was stumped by Lewis McManus off the bowling of Sean Ervine for 68; Surrey were following on after he had carried his bat in their first innings making 219. Some staying power in the era of T20 cricket; it was  a becalmed afternoon in high summer in a game that was still a pleasure to watch.

Uxbridge

Middlesex versus Hampshire, 12-15th September 2017

To every Hove its Arundel, although to Uxbridge in September when it would have been better were it Lord’s was a test of patience. After a blank first day, a start was made on the second morning, although when some rain came the players did not delay in leaving the field, a reminder of times of old, before the arrival of T20 cricket and the changed attitudes that have come with it. To be fair, given the problems with the covers it was probably of some help to the ground staff as well.

In a nice touch after lunch the PA informed that Felix Organ from the Hampshire academy, who had travelled to the ground after James Vince withdrew in the morning, was present in person making his debut for the county; alas a quick deluge followed after a few minutes and whereas at a major ground coverage, drainage and a resumption in an hour or so would have probably followed, that was it for the day. Middlesex 76-3.

The blogger renewed his enthusiasm for spectating on the third day by listening to the BBC commentary, a job well done by them as it usually is. Play resumed on time on the Friday morning, some warm sunshine, free admission and a sprinkling of spectators to witness proceedings. The Middlesex innings closed on 204 and in reply Hampshire made 146,  no-one really batted with any sense of permanence at the crease on either side, although Joe Weatherley, Felix Organ and Ian Holland played attractively for the visitors. A pleasant few hours to watch and a reminder of the charm of watching at outgrounds.

Middlesex play much of the time at Lord’s, ground preparations by the MCC, their outgrounds, prepared  in high summer by club/school; it came to light that they do not have their own ground staff and it seems that more time was lost in this match than might have been as a result. The 2016 winners of the Championship go into the final two rounds of matches with Yorkshire and Somerset their chief rivals to avoid the drop, the tables turned on a year ago and some added spice to the end of season given the way the title was won last year.

Elsewhere,  Essex became  Champions for 2017, a title won at Edgbaston with a team that had seven players born in what might be termed  the historic cricketing county. It was the seventh time in all and their first win since 1992. To use Stephen Chalke’s phrase  they are a grounded club; other counties have mortgaged their futures, gone prospecting for prestige since then, while Essex, it could be said, have played the game.

 

Surrey versus Middlesex 4th Day

Surrey versus Middlesex  31st August 2017

It having been a good week for red ball cricket, to the Oval to see the final afternoon of the London derby. A Middlesex rear guard action and a game heading for a  draw after tea, when the players  suddenly and unexpectedly left the field. No announcement was forthcoming although after a  few moments some sort of security alert seemed very probable.

Time and other things are suspended rather in these situations, two security staff walked round the boundary edge on the Harleyford Road side of the ground, up the steps, passing by this spectator, being good enough to indicate an arrow being carried by one of them, onwards in the direction of the hospitality custom above, where (presumably) they thought they might find a bow. I gather they didn’t.

Meanwhile members in the pavilion looked around at each other awaiting communication as did other spectators; after a period of 10-15 minutes, perhaps more than that, a plainly nervous gentleman on the PA apologised for the delay in making an announcement, but would spectators please take cover now, which being sensible people they did. The BBC commentary team spoke of lockdown  although this spectator and others simply headed out of the ground and down the road to Vauxhall Station.

From a distance of about two feet the arrow certainly looked like it would have done a serious damage to someone had it struck them; luckily as well as happily this day it didn’t.

The individual response by the security staff was good; as for their managerial co-ordination there was a rather long delay in telling spectators to take action and before the episode  is passed into the filing cabinet, mental and otherwise, what could be done to shorten it on any future such occasion should be somewhere near the top of the list of priorities.

 

 

 

T20 Blast Statistics 2017

If T20 is the future of cricket what to make of the data analysis that comes with it? Performance stats help decide how to bowl at opposing batsmen, set markers for the number of wickets during a powerplay and so on. Win the  toss and bat? Time was when this amounted to something like a conventional wisdom, although the Guardian newspaper this summer reported that 72% of teams in T20 matches in 2016 batted second and that 55% of teams chasing won;  a conventional wisdom overturned maybe.

Middlesex versus Hampshire at Lord’s 2017. Middlesex won the toss and batted, Hampshire won.

Underpinning much of this is the belief that T20 cricket produces a limited number of variations and, given many games, what statisticians measure will be stable for long enough to introduce an element of predictability. While games may mimic some of the features of an experiment, it would be fair to add that data analysts have not solved what the 18th century philosopher David Hume called the problem of induction. So, if scientific methods in T20 cricket might be useful up to a point, the question is which point or points?

The new wisdom of win the toss and bowl  seems to have permeated well in the T20 Blast; the bat: field first ratios being approximately 30:70 both last year and this. Prior to Finals Day, the number of games won batting first:second in 2016 was 52:63, something very similar to the (presumably more general) numbers given in the Guardian.

As to why there might be an advantage batting second, uncertainty about how the pitch will play and what constitutes a par score may be part of it. Limited overs games may be ‘moving on’ all the time, the effects of changing bat sizes, boundary ropes and mind sets that play the game. The average score of those batting first in games this year was 172,  seven more than in 2016; given this background, playing wait and see after winning the toss is an understandable decision.

Middlesex versus Kent at Richmond 2017. Kent won the toss and fielded, Middlesex won.

This seems believable enough for some games, although the numbers in 2017 after the quarter finals for those winning batting first:second were 58:53; which raises the question of whether the new  wisdom has moved on to the point where it tilts the odds in favour of the opposition.  Perhaps winning streaks in high profile matches have a disproportionate influence on thinking: in the 2016  T20 World Cup the West Indians won the toss, fielded first and won all six matches. Less commented on, maybe, was the experience of the 2016 T20 Blast winners, Northamptonshire, who won the competition on a losing streak of eight coin tosses.

It is, of course, possible that a more sophisticated look statistically, controlling for (measurable) other influences on winning might retrieve support for the current fashion for fielding first. It might do the opposite.  It might also just be that statisticians have been making available the benefits of a sugar pill, or a data placebo, for those minded to swallow one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Park, Bournemouth

Hampshire versus Middlesex, 3rd September 1978

Hampshire  won both their county Championships at Dean Park and in 1978 they went on to add the second of their three  Sunday League trophy wins there as well. In the weeks since the match at Cheltenham, covered in another post, they had defeated Kent at Southampton, but  lost at Northampton, so when Gordon Greenidge and Richard Gilliat walked out to bat in front of a large and optimistic crowd, a win and a Somerset loss was needed.

Their opponents that day were a Middlesex team who were (joint) Champions the year before and who boasted an array of Test players in their ranks. The Hampshire opening pair again got off to a fine start, sharing a stand of a 100 against a bowling attack that included Wayne Daniel and Mike Selvey, Phil Edmonds and John Embury, before two wickets fell quickly. Trevor Jesty, who also had a fine match, then made 47 in another century partnership with Gordon Greenidge as the innings finished on 221-4, a good score, if not more than a good score, at that time. For the Middlesex spin twins it was not the easiest of afternoons, although the scorecard did record three catches by Phil Edmonds.

Three years before on the same ground Barry Richards played an outstanding innings in the penultimate game of Hampshire’s successful Sunday campaign that year; of which it could be said that it anticipated rather the way the game would be played in the T20 era. Gordon Greenidge made 122 in this match, and played the sort of innings, 5 sixes…. those that were one bounce into the hedge and those that went straight over it….that was to become more common decades later in a game played with a different attitude, and with different sized bats; markers of two great players.

The Middlesex reply started well with Clive Radley and Norman Featherstone putting on 76, then with Graham Barlow at the crease the second wicket pair reduced the required runs to under 100 in the evening sunshine. The balance of the game swung again as Trevor Jesty, well backed up in the field and helped by a brilliant catch by David Rock,  removed  the visitors’ middle order, and, with the game slipping from them, three run outs followed. The Middlesex innings eventually subsided to 195 all out.

As was the norm for such occasions then a pitch invasion followed, as did quite a wait for the result at Taunton. In 1978 Somerset were on the threshold of their ‘glory years’, the era of Ian Botham, Joel Garner and  Viv Richards, but happily for Hants that day this was to start in 1979, as Somerset fell two runs short.

Richard Gilliat, Hampshire’s Oxford educated captain, was to play in one more Championship fixture after this game. In an interesting interview he gave to Peter Walker on the BBC that season, he spoke of the sense of pursuing a career in sport, or music, taking a  risk in life at least for a time, rather than taking the ‘safe option’ of going to work in a bank or similar;  still an admirable sentiment in 2017 in an otherwise much changed world.

As for Dean Park,  Hampshire played their last home game there 25 years ago, after a decade in which the county began to rather lose its way off the field. As seen now the available  comforts and catering for members, the parking spaces are, of course, of their time. The (partly modernized) ground has since been used by Dorset  and is now owned by a private school. As one of the county game’s past outgrounds it is still a place of happy memories for those who were there when Hampshire were.

 

Clarence Park, Weston-super-Mare

Somerset versus Hampshire,  August 9-11th 1978

While the main interest for Hampshire and their supporters in 1978 was the Sunday League,  three Dean Park regulars in a Hillman Imp also went to Clarence Park for the second day of the  Championship  fixture during the Weston-super-Mare cricket week that year.  A delayed  start, time enough to visit a hostelry, arriving to see David Turner and Trevor Jesty resume the visitors’ innings on 111-2.

Wickets soon fell on  a difficult surface, which brought together the Taylor twins: Mike (MNS, the batsman) and Derek (DJS, the wicketkeeper). There have not been that many twins who have played first class cricket, those playing against one another fewer still, although the Taylor brothers did so on several occasions during the 1970s; including a fixture in 1974 when Mike was caught by his brother and Derek was caught off the bowling of Mike. They played a part in dismissing each other on several other occasions as well, although as it happened not in this match as Mike was caught by Vic Marks off the bowling of Colin Dredge.

Clarence Park  is a municipal ground and the wicket could,  in the language used then, be spiteful.  Four years later a Somerset innings was to last for 85 balls against Middlesex, one of the shortest in the history of the game in England. The Hampshire Handbook for the 1978 season pointedly commented  that it was necessary for Richard Gilliat to take a precautionary visit to hospital after being hit in the face, and the Somerset innings also produced some moments of concern for Peter Roebuck, although he was able to resume.

The highlight of the afternoon for most spectators was, of course, to see Viv Richards bat. The following year he was to captain the West Indies in their successful defence of the World Cup at Lord’s, this particular afternoon he helped solidify the position of the home side by making 49, before being stumped at the wicket by Bob Stephenson. Somerset finished the day on 86-3. Home time, and, as was the way of things then a chance to listen to the reading of the cricket scoreboard on Radio 2 at 7.30.

The Lord’s museum in 2017 has been holding an exhibition on West Indian cricket, of some interest here is the contract letter between Somerset and Viv Richards for the 1981 season in England. The accepted offer was more, but not much more, than a recent graduate might have been paid at that time.

 

The letter also incidentally shows just how careful Somerset, not the most prosperous county then, were with the husbandry of their office stationary. As elsewhere the county has ended the festival weeks at   outgrounds,  Weston (1996), and Bath (2006), developing the county ground to the point where Taunton in 2017 is quite unrecognisable from the way it was when Hampshire visited at the time of the match remembered here.

Of Somerset it seems fair to comment that they have not had the problems of underfunded rebuilding projects, and declining interest in areas where outgrounds were once in use; in respect of T20 Blast attendances in 2017, quite the opposite. As seen on TV of the three grounds used for the T20 matches between England and South Africa this summer, Taunton, both on the ground and  from the air, was showing well.

 

 

The Scoreboard

Whither the cricket scoreboard? Time was when spectators would look at the scoreboard a lot: a single taken, a glance,  end of the over reached, another glance, many glances over the course of a game. When the Beeb covered test cricket at the end of an over a shot of the scoreboard would often appear.  Then came the 21st century, Sky and, at least at some grounds, free Wi-Fi; electronic boards replaced mechanically operated ones to some advantage, which is not to say that they are always easier to see from a distance.

The photo to the right was taken this summer at the Oval  during a county game. The blogger’s take is that the  information from the scorers has been well-filtered,  for those taking a glance what else might they reasonably expect to see during the first innings of a Championship match? For other details the BBC website, cricket archives and Wikipedia; a good job done, as usual, at the Oval.

 As for T20 cricket, the scoreboard at Old Deer Park, Richmond on the left, also this summer, doing scoreboard essentials in a manner of speaking; gleaning from somewhere the batsmens’ squad numbers would be useful for spectators, but for a board at a club ground doubling as an outground nothing more expected.

T20 cricket at the Home of Cricket, a large crowd come to see and make the game’s future. The scoreboard for action replays, umpiring decisions and the faces in the crowd whose Thursday night just got better giving thanks for being in receipt of a (sponsor’s name) hamper. As for spectators keeping an eye on the score as well, the scoreboard(s) were doing something suspiciously like information overload; a distant second in terms of clarity to what Sky show during their coverage of matches and not obviously helping newcomers take more interest in the game. If the board just showed the score, batsmen runs (balls), the bowler bowling overs/runs and the target to win/off, it could be made a whole lot more visible to those who come without a camera with zoom.

 

 

 

Cheltenham

Gloucestershire versus Hampshire 13th August 1978

One week after Portsmouth the 1978 Sunday League fixture list took Hampshire on to Cheltenham, home to the oldest county cricket festival, in their quest for the Sunday title that year. Gloucestershire-Hampshire matches at that time had edge: the previous season Mike Proctor had taken four wickets in five balls in an epic limited overs semi-final at Southampton, which Gloucestershire  won by the margin of seven runs before going on to defeat Kent in the final. A match that in recent interviews Mike Proctor remembers as the high point in his time with his county.

The last day of that season also saw Gloucestershire in a position to win the  Championship at Bristol for the  first time, with Hampshire the visitors. A trio of Dean Park regulars, the blogger included, took advantage of BR’s ‘premier’ slam door service to attend and watch from the top of the Bristol pavilion, which  provided  a fine view from behind the bowler’s arm when pavilion views among several counties did not. Hampshire were set 271 to win, and although Stephen Chalke’s account of the day in his book  Summer’s Crown recalls two drops in the field, the scoreboard  didn’t really show in favour of the home side at any time, and from mid-innings on, it was pretty apparent that Hampshire were heading for a relatively comfortable win. Cricket history would have been different, kinder perhaps, if the two counties had exchanged home wins that year.

 As to the Sunday League fixture in the 1978 Cheltenham Festival, there had been much rain over the  days leading up to it, and the Hampshire Handbook of that year credits the ground staff  that a game was played at all. Certainly more  sawdust than sun in evidence in the snaps taken as Hampshire’s opening partnership of Richard Gilliat and Gordon Greenidge again gave them a good start, seeing off the challenge of the opening spell from Mike Proctor who,  bowling off a restricted run, still finished with the impressive  figures of 2-9 off 7.4 overs.  Trevor Jesty helped give the innings some impetus, but Hampshire declined from a score of 153-3 at one point to be bowled out for a relatively modest looking 169, bearing in mind that the home team’s top order included  Sadiq Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas, as well as Mike Proctor.

 The home team’s response however never really got going that afternoon, Sadiq, Zaheer and Andy Stovold gone by the time the score reached 22; two wickets for the then newcomer, Tim Tremlett, who also finished the match with figures of 2-9, from 5 overs in his case. Mike Proctor and Andrew Hignall joint top scored with 29 as Hampshire ran out comfortable winners in a low scoring match by a margin of 47 runs. An important win for Hampshire in the context of that season, it also remains their only limited overs  victory on the ground.

In recent years the Cheltenham Festival has attracted some 20,000 spectators and in 2017 it was expanded to include two Championship fixtures and three T20 matches. In a decade when books are written about lost cricket grounds and lost cricket festivals, a case of well played.

 

Lord’s

The Lord’s Tour April 2017, Middlesex versus Hampshire T20 Blast,  3rd August 2017

April and the Lord’s Tour to help welcome in the new season. The star exhibit in the museum for England supporters got its due attention, but absent the activity of a match and as seen within the social etiquette of a tour, the pavilion is not overly large inside nor perhaps all that imposing. There are some fine landscapes of the game’s history in the Long Room and portraits of the game’s greats on the steps to the players’ changing rooms, although  the rooms themselves were surprisingly basic: no captain’s place, showers separated by a ‘public’ corridor, the balconies in front bijou plus spaces.  The staff in the museum and the pavilion, it would be fair to say, were a model of courtesy and perhaps Victorian interiors will be become more fashionable again at some point.

The Media Centre being closed the tour finished on the upper level of the Mound Stand and looking across to the Nursery End views were invited on the aesthetics of the Centre. What was once thought of as marmite seemed to be taken in somewhere near neutral by those going round. As for those going round: from the subcontinent, a majority, whose numbers included the most enthusiastic and the importance they placed on the game evident; from Holland, in their own way the most respectful;  Australia, the most informal, thought the Twickenham tour had more to offer and commented on how much more affordable test cricket was back home. There were two from England, the guide included, who after a little prompting found a moment to mention Old Father Time.

The T20 fixture between Middlesex and Hampshire drew a crowd of  over 22,000, Lord’s under lights a stage for a good show. The first half of the home team’s innings  started fairly well, after a modest power play Mason Crane’s first over was expensive and they looked on course for a competitive total at the half way point. However the leg-spinner was to get his man, bowling Stephen Eskinazi for 43, and his remaining three overs were tight ones.  The second half of the innings subsided badly and the final total of 136 was probably something like 25 under par.

A routine win for the visitors followed after a good start by James Vince and Rilee Rossouw, the South African who was hit on the helmut early in his innings, went on to make 60 before being caught on the long-leg boundary.  By the time Lewis McManus and Sean Ervine knocked off the winning runs the result had been settled, barring the very unexpected, for some time.

As for the occasion, an introduction to the game was provided on the scoreboards for those who need to know that it is eleven a side and the other basics. Sweet Caroline and Hi Ho Silver Lining exercised the crowd’s vocal chords, the ScatterBlast scattered t-shirts into the Grandstand and hampers were distributed amongst those who waved at the camera. The Lord’s fox put in an appearance and found that, despite the advert, cricket does have boundaries. In the years of the Sunday League dull fixtures were without much to lighten proceedings, T20 matches come with some cheer on the surface. The evening  was also helped by having the  Lord’s Pavilion in view, whatever  might be made of its interior, it is a beautiful building from the outside, both during the day and at night.

 

 

 

 

 

Burnaby Road, Portsmouth

Hampshire versus Yorkshire, 6th August 1978

The blogger’s first visit to the ground was in 1973, watching from the small stand below the Officers’ Club in the corner. Burnaby Road at the time had a certain robustness to it that came  with the usage of the ground by the military and which, in a way, was symbolised by the ground’s heavy roller; but with it also came the character that made it  different to the other county grounds in Hampshire and many elsewhere.

What it did have in common  of course was a watching experience which for most was at, or close to, ground level.  While a general advantage of ground rebuilds since has been more  elevated seating and the better perspective it gives, there was, and still is, a charm from old style watching at outgrounds, close to the action and easy to perambulate, centrally located and a part of the life of the communities that developed them.

As mentioned in the then and now  post on the Oval, Hampshire were a team in transition in the summer of 1978. When Yorkshire arrived in the first week of August that year Barry Richards and Andy Roberts had departed, having played their last games for the county at a rather wet Leicester, where a Gillette cup (60 over) match ran into a second day, as they sometimes did in those days. Two of the major stars in the history of the game gone, and their captain, Richard Gilliat, was also to retire from the game at the end of season as well. They were however still challenging for the Sunday League, a trophy they had won three years previously in  Derbyshire.

Yorkshire won the toss that Sunday and elected to field in front of a good crowd. Richard Gilliat moved up the order to open with Gordon Greenidge and together they put on 133 for the first wicket, the first in a succession of important opening stands for  Hampshire’s challenge in  the absence of Barry Richards.  Gordon Greenidge went on to make a 116; the Hampshire Handbook for the year recording ten 4’s, and five 6’s in a different era for what are now called maximums. Trevor Jesty towards the end of the innings helped lift the total to 216-4 in a match that the weather restricted to 34 overs; in truth a  pretty formidable score given the way the game was played then.

The late 1970s was a time of West Indian dominance in cricket and this match at Portsmouth bears at least some comparison to the England-West Indies World Cup Final the following year. Viv Richards made a century that day, and together with the help of Collis King, the West Indies totalled 286-9 in their as it was then 60 overs;  in reply Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley gave England a platform with a century opening partnership, but much pressure was then on the later order batsmen; the England innings finishing on 194 despite the  efforts of Graham Gooch.

At Portsmouth Yorkshire’s reply started well enough, with a second wicket partnership between Geoff Boycott and Bill Athey taking the score to 70, although when it was broken good bowling by Mike Taylor (4-36) and John Rice (3-25) was to restrict the visitors score to 130 as the pressure told on the later order batsmen that day as well. For Hampshire a win to keep their Sunday League trophy ambitions  on track after the defeat at the Oval the previous month.

As to 2017, alas unlike the Oval no fixture to attend at Burnaby Road this year, although perhaps things may change in 2020 or sometime afterwards. In 1978 eight of the sixteen Sunday fixtures Hampshire had were at outgrounds and, broadly speaking, the centralizing tendencies in cricket can be traced back to not all that long after the time of the match remembered here. A change of direction would not be before time.

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