The Championship’s cold comfort

When is a summer game not a summer game? The poet Robert Browning might have yearned to be in England ‘now that April’s there’, but he was not a batsman having his finger ends trapped and inside thigh bruised by a deliveries nipping alarmingly off the seam. Eventually, the good luck of those who have pushed the boundaries of the season back into near winter had to run dry and, this year, batsmen have not thanked them for it.

Many counties will have played four Championship fixtures- a quarter of their allocation- by the time April is done, and when those in September are added to the mix, it is clear that the summer game is now given over not to the traditional four-day format, which in recent years has provided the best argument for the continuation of county cricket in its current form, but to Twenty20 and forty-over cricket.

The Olympics clearly add an extra layer of confusion this year, but there will be no Championship matches staged at the Oval between the end of May and the middle of August. The scale to which the rhythm of the season has shifted is made clear from a look at my own career: discounting University matches and friendlies, I played a mere five Championship matches in April throughout a decade and more for Lancashire, almost as many just one more than some will play this year alone.

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