Summer is coming! The clocks have gone forward, the last (STC) snowfall has melted away, and it is time to don cable-knitted woollens and prepare for red-ball action. Today it begins, with the following fixtures:
Group One: Essex v Worcestershire (Chelmsford), Nottinghamshire v Durham (Trent Bridge), Warwickshire v Derbyshire (Edgbaston)
Group Two: Middlesex v Somerset (Lord’s), Leicestershire v Hampshire (Leicester), Gloucestershire v Surrey (Bristol)
Group Three: Northamptonshire v Kent (Northampton), Lancashire v Sussex (Old Trafford), Yorkshire v Glamorgan (Headingley)
For mainly sporting reasons, and only very slightly because it’s much more personally convenient than any of the alternatives, I am at Lord’s to see how serial runners-up Somerset get their campaign started. I am aware that very few of us will be at the cricket today, but maybe, grim as it is, we have become accustomed to life as fans in a fan-free world, and we can always trade virtual banter below the line. Beyond these shores, you should be able to stream matches through the ECB website here (or on the England cricket app), find BBC match commentary here, and gobble up all the Guardian’s cricket coverage here.
Exactly a century ago the Manchester Guardian, as it was then, published an article by the incomparable Neville Cardus headlined The Return of Cricket. It was, to my mind, very much the second best article by Neville Cardus headlined The Return of Cricket we published, after the one he wrote a year earlier (one of my all-time favourite bits of sportswriting, that one, and if we’re lucky/unlucky enough to get some languorous moments today, or failing that tomorrow, I will serialise it here) but it is still beautifully evocative. Last year we republished it online and you can read it in its entirety here. Here’s the climax:
And so you pass into the summer. Evenings in the setting sun, the crack of the bat about you; Saturday afternoons mainly spent in perspiration at mid-on — hard work, there, but a fine place for watching the shadows fall over the cool grass at the wane of the day. And so the cricketer finds the sweet of the year — his only solicitude coming from the sense that it is all so fleeting. Too soon will August be here again, with its sad mellowness and the old cry, this time chilling the heart indeed — “Football Edition! Special!”