Paul Edwards concludes his summer of cricket watching
The English cricket season ends as it has progressed for over five months, in rather disjointed fashion. The first-class county programme reached its climax in magnificently dramatic style nearly a week ago, but the CB40 Final didn't take place until 48 hours later. This afternoon I am watching the last international match of the summer between England and Pakistan at the Rose Bowl, and tomorrow televised cricket concludes with the Finals Day of the Cockspur Rum Club Twenty20 at the same venue.
All the recreational leagues have completed their fixture-lists, but I was informed at Taunton that there are villages in Yorkshire where cricket continues until mid-October. Like addicts, we are slowly weaned off our fix in the hope that we will eventually be better able to survive six months in which most of us will watch no cricket in the flesh. (Football supporters seem to have no such close season any more: professionals players are like hamsters in cages, perpetually pedalling the wheels of profit until they break down or retire, when their places are taken by fresh creatures.)
For those of us with satellite dishes, our cricketing deprivation will be limited. The live televising of the Ashes, the World Cup and a host of other one-day and Test series will ensure that the game is regularly available to us. It'll always be summer somewhere.
So when I was asked by my travelling companion as we returned from Taunton whether I was looking forward to the end of the season, I needed to think awhile but eventually admitted that, yes, I was ready for cricket in England to stop for a few months. For what would be the attraction of a sport that is always available? What would make the game special? This way, our enthusiasm is sharpened by absence and every April is filled with delicious anticipation.
The changes in the seasons help too. The summer game is really spread over three seasons. This afternoon I watched Pakistan's splendidly aggressive Shoaib Akhtar dismiss Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss in conditions scarcely different from those at the Rose Bowl nearly two months ago when I saw Shivnarine Chanderpaul craft a century for Lancashire ; yet by the time Eoin Morgan was well on his way to a beautifully constructed hundred in reply, the distant valleys and villages of Hampshire were enfolded in early evening mist and there was a tang in the air which carried an unmistakeably autumnal feel.
Now it's true that I could do without Southport and Birkdale's first pre-season friendly being interrupted by snow, as happened a couple of seasons ago, but I do believe that variations in the weather add to cricket's appeal. Think of the sea fret at Hove, a heavy atmosphere at Headingley or the glories of Trent Bridge in high summer. Would we really appreciate a summer which was nothing but wall-to-wall sunshine?
As I write, Pakistan are 76 for two and the game is beautfully balanced. The spectators, noisy, boisterous, but essentially good humoured, are enjoying themselves hugely and concentrating on nothing but the cricket. I'm engrossed by it all, and despite the wise warnings of the Rev. Malcolm Lorimer, I've already had three cans of Red Bull. When my cricket ends tomorrow evening, I will feel a sense of poignant melancholy unrelieved by the knowledge that I do not have to go home on the Parbold Flyer. Yet I will also accept it all as part of the rhythm of the year and I will hunker down for the autumn.
Photo: PA Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd