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The Friends Provident Trophy is an enormous competition. It looks sizeable on paper, but like a gigantic beached whale, it’s only when you get up close to it that you can appreciate the scale of the monster. Eighteen teams play approximately 57 times each before the exhausted viewer is granted the reprieve of a knock-out stage and the whole thing reaches a merciful conclusion.
Still, there is no competition so large that Worcestershire can’t find the quickest way out of it. An impressive haul of defeats, surrenders and capitulations means that the men in dark green and camouflage are already going through the motions with the group stages barely halfway through, and whilst this is an impressive feat that ought to earn them a place in the lists of cricket failure (just above the Kings XI Punjab and below Brett Lee’s singing), it does not make them box office.
Falling asleep whilst watching cricket is something that I had pencilled in for my twilight years, but Monday evening’s clash between the aforementioned losers and Derbyshire Falcons had me teetering on the brink of unconscious more than once over the course of three painful hours. On the longest day of the year, this was the longest Twenty20 game I have ever witnessed that didn’t involve Mr Duckworth and his colleague.
Worcestershire set a small target slowly. Derbyshire pursued it steadily. A nation yawned. When Loots Bosman fell, the non appearance of Chesney Hughes meant that Derbyshire tap-tapped their way to an easy target with all the dash and élan of Geoffrey Boycott alphabetising his CD collection. It isn’t easy for a man in a seven-foot falcon costume to look bored, but Derbyshire’s mascot managed it, standing arms folded as the men in powder-blue shirts made a seven-course banquet of the situation.
If you are beginning to spot the slightest whiff of bitterness about my indifference to this particular fixture, then you may have a case. I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely straight with you, readers and must declare an interest. I am a Worcestershire supporter. This isn’t something I talk about too often, but my therapist thinks it might help to get things out of the open, to come out of the green closet as it were.
It started back in 1988. The world was younger; I was thin; anything seemed possible. Back then, Worcestershire were the thing. They had Graeme Hick, in the days before we found out that he wasn’t as good as we had fantasised that he might be. They had Ian Botham, or at least a tubby man who looked rather like him. They had Graham Dilley, Neal Radford, Richard Illingworth. They had Steve O’Shaughnessy.
But this current lot are a sorry sight. It doesn’t help that they are wearing a ridiculous uniform. Yes, I know it’s for charity and all that but they look like one of those nutty backwoods American militias or extras from an episode of The A-Team. If it wasn’t for Moeen Ali, they’d barely be functioning, and the addition of the MP for Matara District, one Jayasuriya, S, is a signing as symbolic as it is desperate. “They’re just not going anywhere, Worcestershire,” sighed Ian Ward. Quite so, Mr Ward.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73