Paul Edwards reflects on the start of the Friends Life t20 campaign...and some strokes he saw a young batsman play in early May
And...they're off. Not just at Royal Ascot, but also at Trent Bridge, Leeds, Bristol, Beckenham and wherever else the Friends Life t20 caravan will pitch its tent these midsummer evenings. There are only 10 matches in the group stages this year but the frenetic pace of the games still makes a sharp contrast with the leisurely, almost contemplative manner in which a County Championship match unfolds.
One arrives at a venue for a first-class game knowing that in all probability it will be your base for four days or so. There is time to explore, to take in the atmosphere, to talk to the locals, to think. Those things, too, are part of the cricket. Then there is the rhythm Graham Hardcastle and I experienced last Thursday evening. We arrived at Derby an hour so before the start of the game, watched the cricket and wrote our pieces. Almost before we knew it, the time had come to break camp and head for the Donington Park Travelodge just off the M1.
Derby last Thursday evening was not the ground I am used to. Every time I have visited the County Ground in recent years I have been covering either the final of the ECB Club Championship or the club t20 Finals Day. They have been gentle days in early autumn, the mellowness of the September mornings offering a sharp contrast to the intensity of the cricket as some of the best recreational players in the country tried to win the two biggest trophies the club game has on offer. Spectators and journalists not heading for the southern hemisphere in the winter have been counting the days left until the end of the season. Mists and a variety of incipient darknesses prevail.
The intensity remained last Thursday as Derbyshire and Lancashire began their t20 campaigns on a chill wet evening but everything else was different: the tempo of the cricket, the accents in the crowd, the atmosphere of the game.
The next evening it was Leicester, a glorious architectural hotch-potch of a ground, wedged like Taunton and Chelmsford between the streets of a busy environment. We arrived early and watched threatening dark clouds scud across the sky, often deposting their cargo on the soaked covers. Against many metereological predictions, we played a full game and the routine was the same as the previous night. Then back to the car and home. Are we complaining? Not for a moment. But it is a helter-skelter lifestyle.
And finally, I move from the temporary to what I suppose we might call the tragically timeless. On Saturday May 12th I covered the last day of Worcestershire's home game against Surrey. The job was in doubt until my employer was satisfied that there would be enough cricket in the day to warrant my presence. In fact, we got a full day's play and Surrey, having followed on, nearly won. Last Monday morning I consulted my notebook for the visitors' second innings. It read as follows: "Maynard - two successive straight drives off Jones - authority, time ". And a few lines later: "Maynard reaches his 100 with a six over long-on off Kapil - footwork, ease".
The death of a young man gives rise to a torrent of grief and, understandably perhaps, some people claim a closeness with the deceased which it is difficult to justify. Apart from noting his promise, I had never given Tom Maynard much attention until May...and last Monday. Just over 48 hours ago I recalled my mental images of the shots the 23-year-old had played on a blissful morning at New Road. Authority, time, footwork, ease. And now he is gone.
Photo - Lancashire line-up at Derby ahead of the start of their first t20 match of 2012 (c) EMPICS
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd