September 9, 2013

County cricket

Top three is top priority

Andy Bloxham
Darren Maddy steered Warwickshire over the line, Warwickshire v Gloucestershire, Friends Life t20, Midlands/West Group, Edgbaston, July, 24, 2013
Thanks for the memories, Darren  © Getty Images
Enlarge

RELATED LINKS

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the five Fireside Poets, once said "into each life some rain must fall." It is rumoured, without testimony I hasten to add, that Longfellow continued "but into each cricket ground where Warwickshire County Cricket Club are playing, and particularly if victory is all but assured, a deluge to make even Gene Kelly hastily seek shelter must intervene."

And thus the theme persists. Warwickshire's lingering title hopes are dashed by the elements, and I continue to lament the injustice of it all like a member of the Australian press corps would a comprehensive Ashes defeat.

There is change in the air at Edgbaston. Dougie Brown remains a disciple of an enormously successful Ashley Giles regime - and possesses the same tools with which to accomplish grand feats of his own - but much as David Moyes must impose his own style of management in the post Sir Alex era at Manchester United, so Brown must follow suit with the Bears.

The realisation that trust can no longer be vested in a delicate top three that's been bailed out more times than a Cypriot bank by its lower middle-order colleagues has at length registered. The outstanding Varun Chopra aside, it is an area of conspicuous weakness.

In response, Warwickshire have looked to flex their financial muscles by serving 28-days notice of their interest in Somerset duo Nick Compton and Jos Buttler. Compton, an obdurate opening batsman and the player most apposite to the Bears top order needs, has since committed his future to Somerset. It would have been an exceptional signing, but nevertheless demonstrates that Brown has astutely highlighted his key areas for improvement.

Buttler, on the other hand, has doubtless been targeted with Warwickshire's limited-overs strife in mind. Whilst his precocious talent unquestionably has a fine future in first-class cricket, it is his unconventionally destructive capabilities against a white ball that have seen him forge his reputation with both Somerset and England. On the back of yet another doomed FLt20 campaign, and a truly dismal YB40 effort after which the sole object adorning the Edgbaston trophy cabinet is a wooden spoon, Buttler's would be a momentous signature.

Such a maverick might also facilitate supporters paying greater heed to the cricket, as opposed to travelling opposition fans. The Eric Hollies stand, infamous in international circles for engendering a raucously carnival atmosphere, was not an altogether pleasant place to reside during the Bears' home Twenty20 fixture against arch rivals Worcestershire. It began with verbal baiting, escalated with the hurling of £4.50 pints of lager (a profligate recklessness, no doubt), and culminated in minor skirmishes that even spilled outside of the ground upon the winning runs being struck. Therein lies the issue with Twenty20 cricket taking place of a Friday evening.

Attendances will be up, so too will the proceeds as thirsty punters feverishly endeavour to keep themselves well oiled, but it rapidly adopts the air of a football match - only with beer permitted inside the viewing area. It's no place for a family, and it remains to be seen whether an adequate balance for cricket lover, beer glugger and those that fall under the banner of both can be achieved. Alternate between Friday's and Sunday's, perhaps? Families are the lifeblood of most cricket clubs, and the wants of that demographic mustn't be lightly cast aside.

Thankfully, yours truly and a few pals do not constitute a family. After leaving the boxing gloves at home we did our bit for the Edgbaston coffers whilst concurrently staving off dehydration, and ultimately had an enjoyable time watching first 'The Beard That's Feared' (Moeen Ali) then Rikki Clarke treat bowlers with utter disdain. The atmosphere wasn't entirely ghastly, either; the vast majority were exceedingly vocal in support of their teams and cheered each boundary as one would a dropped glass in a crowded pub. One could almost pronounce, ignoring the unsavoury aspects for a moment, that English Twenty20 had found its niche.

Faith in the Warwickshire devotees was, however, briskly restored upon venturing to Edgbaston for the final YB40 fixture of the season against Northamptonshire. A bank holiday allowed for a reasonable crowd - consisting primarily of those aforementioned families - to generate a warm atmosphere as we bid farewell to a marvel of the English game in Darren Maddy.

In keeping with Warwickshire's YB40 campaign he had an absolute stinker, of course, but that is beside the point. Northants formed a guard of honour upon Maddy's turn to bat, and the belligerent David Willey paid a personalised tribute by repeatedly smiting anything that Maddy bowled at him in to the stands. As a batsman that fashioned his own reputation upon the sabotage of bowling figures, it was a gesture he's sure to have appreciated.

Maddy departs leaving a fine legacy and fond memories but, of equal importance, having contributed significantly to domestic cricket throughout a stellar career. It may well come to pass that, years from now, Darren Maddy is looked upon as the pioneer of Twenty20 batting. In an age seemingly destined to be dominated by cricket's youngest format, that would be a tremendous accolade indeed. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours; it has, quite literally, been a blast.

After receiving a golden duck on debut, Andy Bloxham opted to write about cricket instead. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Andy Bloxham

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by guildfordbat on (September 9, 2013, 17:18 GMT)

Andy - another fine article although I did initially wonder if this one was ghostwritten! I only say that as it seems almost unbelieveable for you to have written a Warks article without a single mention of Laurie Evans' latest heroics for the Bears!! Anyway, you are certainly right to pay tribute to Darren Maddy. A stalwart for Warks and of the county scene. I too wish him well. As regards booze at T20 games, it was suggested at a recent Surrey members' forum that one part of the ground be designated alcohol-free. Perhaps something to consider although I fear that counties will continue to be more influenced by bar takings than family needs. Re batting signings - the issue with the likes of Compton and Buttler is that they're both firmly on England's radar and so might not be available that much. You could do worse than look again towards the Oval (as you did in the case of Evans). Jason Roy is well down the Surrey pecking order and out of favour but remains an immense talent imo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Bloxham
After receiving a golden duck on debut, Andy Bloxham opted to write about cricket instead. He is a 25-year-old quantity surveyor by profession but cricket writer by obsession. By virtue of growing up watching England in the 1990s, he regards a spectacular batting collapse as a thing of barbarous splendour, although he rarely induces them with his 12 variations of long hop. He has written for All Out Cricket and blogs at the Huffington Post UK. You can view his personal blog here

All articles by this writer Full County Cricket 2014 coverage