In each of our regular New Bulletins the Chairman, Nigel Hancock, normally writes his observations on Cricket Society matters in Chairman's Corner. However for April, the corner is occupied by the Treasurer.
I am very grateful to Nigel Hancock our Chairman for allowing me access to his corner. The idea is to have some new, quality writing in our bulletin and so this is the first, and possibly last, Treasurer’s Trove.
It comes at a fine time as we have a new season on the horizon. I have just come in from the golf course on an unseasonably warm February day and broken sweat for the first time since returning from Sri Lanka in December. So the summer must not be far away as will be the first match we watch. In my younger days I recall the delicious experience of strolling through the gates of a ground, sun warming the forehead, the smell of freshly mown grass and perhaps the thwack of a ball being hit in the nets. Heaven. Its an optimistic time for all teams until reality bites and as John Barclay always says “before the losing starts.”
Of course the season starts ever earlier so these days on the first visit to a ground you are more likely to experience snow or hail and staff crouched round braziers trying to keep warm.
I was amused to see Essex are at Fenners at the end of March. I’m not saying its cold up there but it is rumoured that Shackleton spent a month in residence in March 1914 acclimatising his men for the arctic. We are a hardy lot though us cricket watchers and with 12 layers on and a flask of hot soup we can avoid the worst effects of early season frostbite.
It is some season we have ahead. For those devotees of the longer, short form of the game a world cup will kick off shortly. England will start as favourites and not just because of a home draw. The one-day team has really come on from the rather desperate efforts of the past. Whatever people may say about Trevor Bayliss and his development of the test team, his stewardship of the one-day side has been remarkably successful. Great credit must also go to Paul Farbrace and Andrew Strauss during that time - I do hope Strauss can return in due course after the sad death of his wife Ruth. The one day game is more difficult to call now though as a few wickets at the top of the order can make all the difference and I for one will not be counting any chickens.
Surrey will be defending their championship in 2019. It was a saunter to the title last season and Surrey were worthy winners - not a phrase that comes easy to a Middlesex member. Yorkshire were the last team to defend the title in 2015 and it was Durham before that in 2009 so not an easy task. They will have England calls to manage and the odds are against them but I doubt any team will relish a trip to the Oval.
It is a long wait but in August the Australians arrive for five tests - plenty of time to work on our sandpaper jokes. Ashes series of recent vintage have not been particularly close contests so we are due a tight one. England’s top order troubles were cruelly exposed in the Carribbean but the Aussie batting looks worse. They will be bolstered by Steve Smith, in my view the best batsman in the world at the moment, and also David Warner. I have been chewing the top of my pen trying to find an appropriate epithet for Mr Warner that will pass our defamation lawyers but I can’t so lets just call him a “character”. With both sides stronger in bowling than batting we might see a few short contests but they can be just as exciting. It may well be Jimmy Anderson’s last Ashes series and there won’t be a dry eye in the house if he bows out at the Oval.
It may have slipped under your radar but we have the first ever test against Ireland at Lords at the end of July. Checking on the website I can see tickets still available for £50. Given that an Ashes ticket (even if you could get one) would be the thick end of three times that, the Ireland match allows you to see a test match at Lords this summer without taking out a second mortgage.
The Cricket Society takes a rest at fine leg over the summer but we have a big finale in the form of our spring lunch at The Oval on 29th March. We have developed this into a gala event with all our awards and a cast of famous faces. Our keynote speaker will this year be Devon Malcolm who made the South African batsmen “history” at that venue some years ago. Its a great occasion and if you have never been why not treat yourself to a ticket?
I have never visited either Beckenham or Guildford and so will be at both of our two days at the cricket on 20th May and 10th June respectively. Again if you have never attended one of these they are rare fun and an opportunity to meet other members and chat about the game.
As I say then, there is much to look forward to and so all we need is some warm, dry weather, a comfortable seat to sit in and maybe a glass or two of something invigorating at our elbow.