Fin de Partie

It was the day after the last match of the season of 1956.

Staying on in the Great House, owing to a bad case of piles, was Sam Beckett, the only first class cricketer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A somber mood prevailed.  Outside, the square was being put to bed for the winter.  Always a depressing time of year.  

In the Library the Squire was chair-bound having suffered a ‘hammy’ running in to make a catch which to his dismay he had dropped.  

Becket had also performed poorly, much discommoded by his piles. That morning the dramatist, novelist, poet, translator and LHB, LM, unable to sit, was propped against a lectern, reading Swanton in the Daily Telegraph and reflecting on the progress of the last county matches of the season.

Lancashire were proving themselves powerless to prevent Surrey taking the championship title for a record breaking fifth year in a row.

“It is so boring, but it looks certain that Surrey will do it again,” opined Beckett savouring the ennui.  “Draw after draw after draw.”

“I don’t agree; Lancashire have made a great contest of it.  It has been nip and tuck all summer.”

“Futile.”

 “Gloucester have contended too.”

 “The lot of them could have been living legless in dustbins all summer for the good they have done,” said the dramatist in an effort to hit the nail on the head, so to speak.  Quite absurd!”

The following spring, just as the sap was beginning to rise and the time was coming to reintroduce Dobbin to the mower, the Squire received an invitation to a first night performance of Sam’s new play at the Royal Court– End Game.

“I won’t bother to go, Third Man.  As like as not there will be a couple of characters; one unable to sit, the other unable to stand, failing to agree; one keen to chase, the other to put up the shutters; while a few legless souls crouched in dustbins are dotted at mid-on and mid-off arguing the toss.”

“You forget Sir, the hamstring and the dropped catch.”

“Oh yes, Third Man, and the one that can’t stand will be blind.  Anyway, the critics are sure to misinterpret it all.”

In the present, at the Rose Bowl, Warwickshire built on the slow side a large first innings total under the watchful eye of the passive compiler, Shivnarine Chanderpaul.  

To the west, the talismanic Glen Chappel pulled his hamstring trying unsuccessfully to cut the legs from under James Hildreth who was determined to inject some drama into the end game. Lancashire are giving chase.

Close of Play Day 2:

Rose Bowl, Warwickshire 493 Chanderpaul 171,  Hants 57/0   Warwick: 3 batting points – total 229.    

Taunton, Somerset 380,  Hildreth 186, Keedy 4/57, Chapple 2/43  – Lancs 247/3 Moore 68, Brown 60, Horton 50: 2 bowling and 1 batting points – total 226 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Fin de Partie

  1. backwatersman

    “Fail again – fail better!” – as, I believe, Matthew Hoggard exhorts the Leicestershire players as they take the pitch.

  2. A previous season’s form is proving little guide to future performance. What are the odds on Leicestershire being promoted next year?

    • backwatersman

      It is true that promotion seems to be a thoroughly random process. I’ve spent the last two days watching Leicestershire losing (fairly narrowly) to the new Champions, Middlesex – who looked a pretty ordinary side to me.

      I think the question is whether Leicestershire even want to be successful, or whether we’re content to be a nursery for England and/or other counties. If we could keep the current crop of under-22s together for five years they’d be a formidable side. But I’d guess they’ll either go elsewhere or be disposed of and replaced by a new crop of youngsters.

  3. John Halliwell

    I love the idea of Dobbin being reintroduced to the mower. I suppose it was a nice change for him after a winter dragging barges along the Bridgewater Canal.

    That was a heck of a team Surrey had in the mid/late ’50s. I remember watching them at OT in 1958; May scored 174 and it was as glorious a display of batting as I have ever seen, and remember Statham spearheaded the Lanky attack. Even with the incomparable (in that decade) May at the height of his powers, Statham took 6 – 78 in that innings (including May). It was a day’s cricket I shall never forget, which is more than I can say for Lanky’s 2nd innings – all out for 27 (Gibson 4 – 8; Lock 3 – 11; Laker 2 – 1). Well, OK – I’m struggling to forget it!

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