Goodbye to the summer

Posted in ECB ACO

What's your favourite season? Nearly everyone I know says 'spring' without hesitation, perhaps in anticipation of summer.

I've always loved the autumn - the spectacular colours and wonderful smells. However, as I get more involved with the world of umpiring I'm beginning to have second thoughts.

Why? Well, because it signals the end of the cricket season in this part of the world and the realisation that the sound of leather on willow is all of seven months away.

The first Sunday in September heralded the first game I'd had cancelled all season due to inclement weather. I'd hardly set out for the journey to Bourne before the dreaded call came.

My consolation was two-fold - firstly I was able to join my elder daughter, who lives in Kent but was up for the weekend, for lunch at a local pub before settling down to watch Northampton Saints, who have lost eight players to the Rugby World Cup, open their Aviva Premiership campaign with a nerve jangling win over Gloucester. The Saints were so near yet so far from some silverware last season - can they go one step further.

The poor weather led to the postponement of Leicestershire over-60s' third meeting of the season with their Hertfordshire counterparts but the following day I was privileged to be one of the appointed officials for the Spitfire 060 Championship Final between holders Cheshire and Essex, the winners of Leicestershire's group and unbeaten throughout this year's competition, which was held at Oakham.

Cheshire recovered from the loss of their captain to the first ball of the match to reach 253 for five, Essex dropping five catches in the process. In reply Essex also lost an early wicket and then a further wicket to a quite brilliant piece of fielding but were well in contention until a second run out, this time of a runner, stalled their progress and they finished 24 runs short.

It was a great game, played in an excellent spirit and enjoyed by everyone, including a sizable crowd of which the younger element were, apparently, amazed at the overall standard of the batting and bowling.

My last Everards Leicestershire County Cricket League appointment of the season involved a first-ever trip to Sileby who were to prove no match for visiting Barwell, who needed a win to allay relegation fears.

An equally one-sided game followed 24 hours later as hosts Finedon Dolben found themselves 37 for six against Oundle Town, who still had an outside chance of snatching the Rutland & District Cricket League title from under the noses of the defending champions, Peterborough Town.

A slight recovery to 101 all out merely delayed the inevitable as the visitors cantered to a seven wicket victory. It was the last time I would see my colleague on the day, having recently announced his retirement from all umpiring.

Two days later, not to be outdone, Leicestershire over-60s travelled down the A1 to resume hostilities with Hertfordshire and, thanks to a good all-round team performance, were able to undertake the return journey in good heart.

Indeed, immediately after the game they broke into a spontaneous rendition of 'three-nil, three-nil, three-nil, three-nil' and were joined, dare I say it, by yours truly. I blame the magnificent tea, of which there was so much that everyone was able to tuck in again whilst having a quiet drink as night followed day.

It was not until I was returning home the following morning, having dropped off my long-suffering wife at work, that I realised that I was at the end of a hugely enjoyable and interesting five month journey which had taken me to 14 different counties and involved no less than 70 appointments.

I decided that dwelling on the situation was not the best therapy and I reminded myself that I could now look forward to - the Rugby World Cup, a season of Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup rugby, plenty of walking, which I had neglected recently, and lots of live jazz.

I began to feel better, particulary when I remembered that I would be attending at least six dinners and a number of meetings associated with our great game before, once again, walking to the middle. I just hope the winter is less severe than the last one.