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.
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.
The first match Cricketarchive records as being played at ODP was a fixture in 1867 between Richmond and a United South of England Eleven, a team of travelling cricketers taking the game around the country. It was the second USEE match of that season, having lost a few days earlier in Southampton with the Hampshire county team finishing 95-13. They won at ODP by an innings, and their itinerary that summer was to take them round southern England including Harrow, Islington and Southgate in Middlesex and Ashford and Maidstone in Kent, the games being played with 11 against between 15 and up to 22 on occasion.
150 years later, Middlesex were taking games to outgrounds and the Kent team that took to the field was made up of players born in Ashford, Maidstone and elsewhere. There were globe travelling cricketers available to showcase their talents on both sides; Brendon McCullum, one of the game’s major figures, and Dawid Malan, from Roehampton to Richmond via Paarl in a manner of speaking, opened for Middlesex and gave them a good blast with a partnership that made 92 for the first wicket; ‘ain’t no stopping us now’ accompanied Dawid Malan back to the pavilion. Brendon McCullum went onto make 88, 72 of which came in boundaries, and together with a rapid 28 from Eoin Morgan, over 200 was possible for a time, but the innings was checked by a hat-trick by Matt Coles in the final over.
Kent went in search of 180, but were soon two wickets down, the second over being a wicket maiden bowled by Steven Finn and Middlesex fielded with three slips at one point; but Kent rallied with a fourth wicket partnership between Sam Northeast and Jimmy Neesham, the New Zealander, hired by the visitors for the tournament; Alex Blake kept the visitors hopes real until a boundary catch at the end of the 18th over. They finished 16 short.
The Pagoda in Kew Gardens was under wraps this year, and the vantage point of the London Welsh rugby stand was also closed, but ODP, home to a cricket club that was established in the middle of the 19th century and with the oldest rugby club around the corner does sporting history; a place in which the T20 Blast felt like a descendant of the 40 over Sunday League, cricket a bit more like cricket and comparisons with baseball more distant.
Surrey versus Hampshire July 16 1978, July 3-6, 2017
To the Oval, about to celebrate staging its 100th test but also a place where the question posed by CLR James in Beyond a Boundary…what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?…still resonates. The book, published in 1963, came after the appointment of Frank Worrell as West Indian captain and the decades that followed were to become a time of Caribbean dominance in cricket; the Oval, particularly in the 1970s, a place where the West Indian team and their supporters made a statement against a background of prejudice and lives being difficult.
West Indian cricketers were also prominent in the domestic English game, Hampshire very much included, although by comparison with the tests, county matches were relatively calm occasions; four days for county cricket then meant a Championship game played on a Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, together with a 40-over Sunday League match. When Hampshire went to the Oval in July 1978 the Sunday saw Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards open a Hampshire innings for the final time in a Sunday League match, putting on 97; with the help of some late hitting by Andy Roberts the innings totalled 238-7 at a time when 240 was a ‘good score’ in 60 over cricket and heading over the horizon in the 40 over format.
Surrey however, with a team that had John Edrich, Younis and Intikab chased down the runs with a ball to spare, despite economical overs of medium pace bowling by John Rice and Tim Tremlett. A defeat for Hampshire to get over and also the last weekend in which Andy Roberts played for the county; although in a message about winning competitions they went on to lift the Sunday League trophy that September, winning four of their five remaining games played, in large part thanks to Gordon Greenidge who made two centuries, and also perhaps to a changed dressing room.
In the years since the Oval has been largely rebuilt, albeit that it retains much the same ambience for watching the game. Gas holder number 1 is now seen as iconic and has been granted grade II listed building status.
Cricket, of course, no longer holds the place in West Indian culture that once it did; the Oval in 2017, home to Surrey cricket and to much corporate hospitality and event management, a reflection of the prosperity of London in an era in which, broadly, those born in the decades after WWII, those at the top, have done particularly well. The capacity of the ground is planned to rise to 40,000 in time for the 2023 Ashes test; an expression of confidence in the future, although if the current era beyond the boundary is now drawing to a close, the effect on English cricket, the Oval, is really anyone’s guess.
In the 2017 fixture it was Surrey, with their home in the global city, that took to the field with ten England qualified players and Hampshire who were the team of internationalists: four England qualified players, three South Africans, two Australians, one Zimbabwean and one West Indian. The first two days were dominated by Hampshire who posted their 5th highest ever score, 648-7, with centuries from Jimmy Adams, James Vince and George Bailey; but they were also then left with the difficult task of bowling out an opponent twice on the same pitch. Rory Burns led Surrey’s response from the front, but Hampshire stuck at it with Fidel Edwards, now just one of four West Indians on the county circuit, bowling quickly on the third evening and handy support given by Ian Holland who took five wickets on the final day; although, in truth, the Oval was rather becalmed on the fourth afternoon. A draw on a draw wicket.
From the Oval, the pleasures of a county match in an empty cathedral; in a nice touch on the first day there was a presentation made to Surrey members who had passed their personal half-centuries of membership; if other counties don’t do something similar in a better world they would. Hampshire stronger than they were a year ago and they should be playing Division 1 again next year; if they were to win four of their remaining five matches this year they could still be on to something.
Nottinghamshire both popular and worthy winners this year, having played the extra game and scored 1100 runs in total in their defeats of Somerset (429-9), the record-breaking run chase in the semi-final at Chelmsford (373-5) on the way to the final itself (298-6). The chief contributors with the bat, Brendan Taylor, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel and Alex Hale, were different players in different matches.
Surrey perhaps did not get enough runs in the final: the average score in the tournament as a whole for teams batting first was just under 300 and the ‘good score’ has probably advanced to around 350 for many games; certainly the epic run chase at Chelmsford was arguably the most entertaining 50 over cricket during the Champions Trophy, helped in its own way by some excited and nervous commentators on Sky.
The final had 18 out of 22 England qualified players take to the field, two of whom dominated the game and the winning captain, Chris Read, a Devonian, was a popular figure. In this respect the final was a fair reflection of the backgrounds of the players throughout the competition, over three quarters of whom were England qualified.
David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd commentating on Luke Fletcher’s bowling was the essence of county cricket on a Lords finals day. As to the less good, the ground was less than full and the Pavilion was not well populated at all. While the blocking of competitions in the calendar and the late notice that it gives supporters is likely to be a part of the explanation, it was also noticeable that in a week when TV and reach were the ECB headline, there was a near general silence among twitterati on the availability of tickets. In the ‘final’ played between Middlesex and Yorkshire in the Championship at the end of 2016, the crowd grew by some thousands in the afternoon and it is difficult to see why tickets are not sold for after the innings break when it is not a sell-out.
The media orchestrated celebrations which take place at one end of the ground, while the winning team’s supporters are at the other end empties out what should be a moment of triumph. The trophy presentation could surely be done in the middle, if not in front of the winning supporters, without risking the image of the media personalities in charge.
A beautifully illustrated book, written with great clarity by a hugely well-informed author; part social history, although as much as anything the strength of the book is the character portrayals of the players who played the game in different eras, individuals as different as Brian Close and Shane Warne for example. The format of the book, picking out particular performances and matches, teams in particular seasons works well; it is just a pity that many of the grounds that appear in the book are no longer in use by county teams.
It is the story of a competition which in the parlance of modern analysts is not particularly well-balanced; Surrey, Middlesex and Yorkshire have been champions in roughly half the years it has been played, three counties have still to win it and a fourth, Derbyshire, won it once, before WWII. To some extent this seems to have been rectified in the modern era with the arrival of one-day competitions in the 1960s, and the history of the competition has surely been more interesting, happier, as the number of winners has increased over the years.
Quite how much the Championship and one-day competitions have fed off each other and in quite what ways is an interesting question, and is touched on in the book: a ‘grounded’ club like Essex, for example, first champions in 1979, six time winners now and have now won sixteen trophies in all. The likelihood of three counties still to win the Championship actually doing so at some point in the future, has also probably been generally helped by them winning their share of limited-overs competitions; although not always, Gloucestershire in 1977 denied by Hampshire who they had earlier in the season narrowly defeated in a one-day semi-final en route to winning that trophy.
It is striking that the photographs in the counties section has just one, Trent Bridge, which is a test match venue and one that is a current county ground, Worcester. The view that county cricket is often at its best for spectators when sitting in deck chairs at tree-lined out grounds is well-represented in this book: Colwyn Bay or Cardiff, Aigburth or Old Trafford; Scarborough or Headingly? Hopefully at some point more matches will be played away from the centres.
The book comes with handy stats for reference, some extras on the scorers and umpires. There is also a contender for a gremlin on page 274, but nothing that detracts from the pleasure of reading this book.
As England neared their victory over Bangladesh in the opening game Michael Atherton commented that he expected more runs to be scored than was the case four years ago, observing that the game has ‘moved on’; the influence of heavier bats, changing boundary ropes and mindsets at work amongst all other things. If he is right, and it is harder to know what ‘a good score’ is, then winning the toss and fielding first seems likely to be an advantage.
As to the actual scores four years ago; overall almost 6000 runs in the 15 matches played, an average rate of 5.3 runs per over, although these total figures are distorted rather by the four games affected by rain in 2013. Of the 11 games that weren’t, the average first innings total was around 230 and a score of 300 plus registered just once. Scores of under 200 were made four times. If the weather holds fair this month the question seems to be by how much will the numbers rise, although quite how exciting and/or interesting the cricket will be another matter again.
Forty-two years ago in the summer of 1975 England also hosted the first Prudential World Cup, sixty overs a side in a fifteen game tournament, with the West Indies the winners in a memorable final. Memorable because of the fluctuating fortunes of bat and ball , the early West Indian wickets, the brilliance of Clive Lloyd’s innings and late in the day the efforts of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson to retrieve a seemingly lost cause, in an innings that was to end with five run outs. 565 runs in all, at less than five an over; if it had been 50 over cricket perhaps the target would have been around 230 rather than the actual total of 291, but as to whether it was both exciting and interesting? Certainly was.
Postscript 19th June A win by the underdogs, Pakistan, who having lost to India by 150+ runs in a group match got to the final and reversed the outcome. An epic performance by them even if there weren’t any particularly epic matches taking the tournament as a whole.
A 1000 more runs were scored than in 2013, approaching half of all runs scored came in boundaries; the average score of those batting first up from around 230ish to 270ish. As to the entertainment it produced, pictures for the TV with the ball heading into the crowd, although the pressures when a team batting are not making the runs they were expecting to seems to have help produce some very one-sided matches as well.
This book is a celebration of the best of county cricket and the author does a fine job of narrating his readership through the epic finale at Lord’s at the end of last season. Having attended on three days, it was a welcome reminder.
Three points : I He seems to have had a rather variable relationship with Lord’s as a place to watch cricket. Thirty years ago when bacon and egg tie were high royalty, certainly some staff knew how to (un-)welcome non-members; but now from ticket office, through the Grace Gates to those at the tea-urn they seem as polite and friendly as a great many. The criticism of Lord’s as home of cricket seemed a bit misplaced.
II In reaching into the past for comparisons to last year he references Hampshire, who ‘astonishingly’ beat Gloucestershire on the last day at Bristol in 1977. Their openers then were Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge (both of whom made scores in the nineties in the match) and of whom it could reasonably be asked has there been a stronger pairing? Being fortunate enough to have seen the last day, it was pretty obvious that Hampshire were going to win from the mid-point of the innings on.
III What that game did have in common was that a county that had not previously won the Championship entered the final day with a fair chance, but ended it disappointed. There is an inconvenient question about the declaration last year which is under what circumstances, if any, were Somerset going to win? In other words when does a contrived finish become a fixed one; hopefully someone keeps an eye on the influence of betting patterns in order that others can write and appreciate Cardus.
Ordinary spectators with ordinary pockets paid £80 for a ticket for Test cricket at Lord’s last summer, £5 for the finale of the domestic season. Perhaps the county game just needs a bit more care and attention and hopefully this fine book will help it get it.
Scyld Berry in his book Cricket The Game of Life points to the importance of having attended a fee-paying school, or having a close relative who has played cricket at a high level, or having been born in Lancashire or Yorkshire to the chances of having played Test cricket for England. Those that have one or more of these advantages are not an especially large subset of the population, and as he says ‘the waste has been enormous’, at least looked at from a cricketing point of view.
With this in mind taking a look at the 18 FCC squads this year a majority of the 432 players are either from overseas or educated at independent schools. Players educated in state schools are now some 41% of the total, a figure that appears to have declined since 2013 when some research undertaken by the Chance to Shine charity and published in The Independent found a figure of 50%.
Whether this is an indication of a downward trend that has further to run is moot. The establishment of Chance to Shine in 2005 is associated with the stat of state schools playing cricket having declined to 1 in 10, the average age of players now is around 27 meaning that many would have begun playing in school around the turn of the century, if not before, so it could be. A bit more cheerfully of those who appeared in the Championship games last month just over a half were English and state school educated.
62 of the 321 England qualified players have a relative who played FCC, a figure that rises to 114 if minor county, 2nd XI and league players are included. Cricket, a relatively technical game, seen by some as an acquired taste and family members to share an interest a help.
Lancashire or Yorkshire born players count 59 this year, a bit above the general population shares of the two counties, if the count is of England qualified players, a bit below if it is of all players. Almost half of them are contracted to the county where they born and educated; across all counties this proportion is around 1 in 4 of those who are English, so some basis still for the county structure to the domestic game.
The number of players born in Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton taken together can be counted on two hands. In relation to all things 2020 this may not matter much, or at all, playing wise. If, though, the numbers of players coming through from those cities bears some relation to the wider interest of their generation in those conurbations, then a message about the numbers of potential spectators.
Every reason to celebrate says the front of the book and certainly it is impressive in both its scope and detail. The author’s ‘net’ on the game was in the 1960s when John Arlott was the voice of cricket, a man remembered for his sympathy for the ‘county pro’, who wrote of his abiding nostalgia for the domestic circuit when he retired in 1980. Those at the top of the game have moved a long way since then and in its own way this book shows just how far.
There is much on the development of the game around the world and much is drawn from the 400+ Test Matches the author has attended. This makes it good on, for example, what happened when Captain Gatting met Umpire Rana and why. There is sharp observation on the behaviour of Hanse Cronje and his personality and the extent to which match-fixing is hidden from view by vested interests. The chapter on the psychological framing and stresses at the top is a good one and Marcus Trescothick is rightly applauded for his honesty, although it is not always clear just how much sympathy the author has for his subjects, if any; perhaps it was just intended that readers should decide when to supply their own.
The account of the match between Kent and the Rest of England at the Artillery Ground in 1744, the first match for which an entrance ticket survives, does a good job of bringing history to life. Kent, captained by the Duke of Dorset’s gardener pointing the way for the game to challenge the established social order and arguably thrive because of it. The book also mentions that there were matches between cities in the 19th century, whether the current proposals just represent the latest challenge to the established order and the game will thrive anew, or the opposite if the elites at the Nursery End has miscalculated an open question now.
For those with the time to read its 400 pages a book to educate and inform, some strong opinions given to make the reader agree with or not, for which bravo the author.