Originally Posted by Summer of '77
It's been a week since the end of another season's spectating - my 42nd - and so time to glance through the scorecards and other accumulated paraphernalia in the usual part-glowing, part-melancholy mood. Last Wednesday, I was hankering after the chance for a rest...seven days on and I'm beginning to miss it all already.
Whilst I enjoyed probably my best ever season of spectating, it was also my most difficult. Walking issues mean that the lad who, until quite recently, would stride from Canterbury West Station to the St Lawrence in 23 minutes, now relies on lifts or cabs to achieve such distances. Those staircases at the Compton and Edrich Stands became more challenging with every trip to Lord's. The weather too, after mid-July, presented its own challenge; rain was either nearby, or deemed possible, almost every day and it required several acts of faith to pack the cricket bag and head off to a ground that was by no means guaranteed to yield even half a day's play.
I also felt tested by the revised structure of the county season, now carved into format specific blocks. Despite my perennial criticisms of the white ball game, I derived sufficient pleasure from it to get my fix. But, listening in to conversations through the summer, there's a discontent amongst Championship supporters which suggests membership renewals might encounter a dip this year.
But, for all the obstacles, I managed to get 52 days' cricket, on thirteen different grounds across seven counties. Maiden visits were made to the Middlesex outgrounds of Radlett and Richmond, and I finally obtained the missing jewel in my cricket watching crown, Headingley, where even a rained off first day couldn't mar an experience that was very much as I'd envisaged. Around half of my spectating was solo - days when I find myself zoned into every ball, analysing each bowling and field change. The other half was in the company of a pleasing range of family and friends, including our very own Paulsre and Prince of Denmark. On these occasions, spectating tends to be rather less detailed, as the conversation flows and news is caught up on. Of all spectator sports, cricket is perhaps the one which is best at allowing pleasures outside of what is happening in the game itself.
Although, this year, what was happening in the middle was frequently so compelling as to stifle peripheral conversation. Watching a good deal of Essex's incredible Championship campaign inevitably made it a season to cherish but there was much more. I attended my twelfth successive 'losing' Lord's final and then became a winner in my thirteenth as England Women lifted the World Cup. An enchanting day for numerous reasons. I witnessed one world record and a handful of county records, a triple century, a 9-fer and a hat-trick. I suppose if you attend prolifically, you're bound to see special feats but I've not known a season with so many. Back in April, I thought Footitt's spell of 6 for 6 against Warks was as good as it would get. I turned out for all three of Surrey Stars Womens T20 games and found them more enjoyable than the blokes'.
I was privileged to see so much of Sangakkara in his swansong season, once or twice rejigging my plans towards The Oval if he was not out or next in overnight. Similarly delightful to be around when two even older men, Trescothick and Stevens, recorded a stroke-laden fifty and a wibbly wobbly 5-fer respectively. At the other end of the scale, it's always a joy to see young tyros succeeding on the county stage and I particularly relished watching Ben Coad, Dan Lawrence and Sam Cook.
During one of this year's Tests, a commentator remarked that Alastair Cook and James Anderson were now the veterans of the England side. I recall watching both as youngsters in their early county games and thinking they had something about them (though, without ever anticipating what they eventually became). I was on the cusp of mdidle-age back then and now, suddenly, those kids are approaching the latter part of their Test careers. The cycle of cricket and spectating goes on. I hope the winter leaves me sufficiently fit and well to nab a bit more.