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A flaming June? Let's hope so!

Posted in ECB ACO

Glorious sunshine and clear blue skies heralded the arrival of May as I embarked on my first BUCS appointment of the season at Loughborough University.

The start of the game was incident-packed as the ball went out of shape in the first over and its replacement was soon soaring high out of the ground never to be seen again.

One of the opening bowlers then left the pitch ill, the scorers, who were otherwise excellent, had to be reminded that one of the regulations in this competition is that the penalty for a no-ball is two runs and a bail was broken in a run-out attempt and had to be replaced.

The game thereafter proceeded at a more leisurely pace as over 500 runs were scored and the hosts notched up an expected victory.

Twenty four hours later I was at Hinckley Town where the Leicestershire 50+ and 60+ squads embarked on what was, for them, a pre-season practice match. The 60+ side had, by their own admission, a wretched 2012 and it was good to see some useful new players who will surely add strength and even cause a selection problem or two.

The 50+ side, on the other hand, were only denied a knock-out spot last season on, apparently, a technicality and I expect them to be challenging strongly again.

The ground at Hinckley, which had something of a careworn look the last time I was there, was in good order which reflects the general upsurge in the club’s fortunes as they seek to rekindle past glories and the tea was quite superb.

An ill-disciplined ELCCL match was followed by a visit to the lovely Oundle Town ground where the hosts, thanks to an unbeaten 96 from their South African star, easily overhauled Bourne Town’s below par score in a game in which the home skipper received a nasty facial injury and was dispatched to hospital.

Thankfully, he had returned to the ground by the tea interval and would, apparently, have batted if required.

The Leicestershire 60+ season proper began with a win over visiting Suffolk. Sixty one runs from the last five overs, with their newly-elected captain leading the way with an unbeaten 90-odd, helped them reach 245 for three. Suffolk were well in contention at one point, but the loss of four wickets in seven balls derailed their progress and they finished some 30 runs short of their target.

A BUCS match, which was all over in less than four hours (including tea), was followed by a rain-ruined draw on a bitterly cold afternoon at Ratcliffe College where the school attempted to complete their annual fixture with The Forty Club – a timed game with a minimum of 20 overs in the last hour stipulation - a real throwback to yesteryear.

Rain again interrupted my following two appointments, the latter of which saw me take a break from R&DCL duty.

A few months ago a good cricketing friend of mine was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s and advised to give up the game he loves. I was delighted to accept an invitation to umpire a special game and we played on in the rain to give Tony a good send-off.

The occasion gave me the opportunity to catch-up with people I had not seen in a while and the beer in the local pub was as good as ever. Driving home I found myself reflecting on the fact that, ultimately, good health is everything.

A low-scoring BUCS fixture, on a bowler-friendly damp wicket, was followed by a return to Hinckley where the hosts, chasing a modest 156, albeit on a difficult track, found themselves in trouble at 10 for three.

Thereafter, their two very experienced middle-order batsmen, who have both played a lot of cricket at a much higher level, gave a master-class in how to build an innings and ultimately took their side to victory as they both posted unbeaten 70s.

My next appointment involved a journey of all of five minutes, as I umpired a Leicestershire County Cup match at Market Harborough Cricket Club on a very warm afternoon.

Although the game featured two Premier League sides it was very one-sided but will be remembered for a quite stunning catch by a young cricketer who is fast building a reputation for pulling off the impossible.

The Leicestershire 50+ and 60+ sides both recorded convincing victories – the 50+ after suffering an embarrassing 10-wicket defeat in their first match – before a late switch in appointment, due to a cancelled cup game, resulted in a first ever visit to the Fenland town of Whittlesey, where the hosts lost their first six wickets for just 10 runs in pursuit of a victory target of 210. A slight recovery to 61 all out still meant an early finish on a balmy late spring evening.

I had heard that my colleague had recently spent four nights in hospital after being struck in the face by the ball – it was great to see him in good spirits and seemingly fully recovered to the extent that he was travelling to The Belfry the following day to participate in the finals of a prestigious golf tournament and needed to be up and about at 4.30.

The month ended disappointingly with two cancellations due to the inclement weather, but my total of 20-plus completed appointments was far in excess of what I had managed to achieve at the same stage in the wretched 2012 season. Will we enjoy a flaming June?

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