<
>

Throw open those curtains - but not quite yet

play
Vince shines amid the rain (1:50)

Just two County Championship matches saw any play on day one, but there was plenty happening off the field too (1:50)

"Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful."

Samuel Beckett, the Nobel Prize winning avant-garde playwright who penned these abstruse lines in Waiting For Godot was a first-class cricketer. The fear for many fans of the County game is that, in a typically avant-garde turn of current events, it has become essential reading for administrators at the ECB.

196 days since the end of the 2017 County Championship, every single one of those days counted down on various Twitter and Facebook accounts, devotees of the oldest and best first-class domestic competition in the world emerged from their hibernal cocoons. Many in modestly-priced hotels and guest houses in Leeds. They like their county cricket here, in case you hadn't heard.

"Throw those curtains wide" sing Elbow. We did. As wide as they could possibly go. "One day like this a year'd see me right." Well, not so much. Unless it was just one and no more. Peering through the sepulchral gloom of a Headingley morning from an eighth floor window, it was just about possible to discern the floodlights, enveloped in a demented mist.

Breath didn't so much emerge from your mouth in visibly condensing waves, as envelope your soul in sadness and refuse to release its malignant grip.

This time last year, give or take a week, the Championship season got off to a vivid, gleaming start in glorious sunshine. Chelmsford was as hot as Chennai, The Kennington Oval no less a paradise than Kensington, but clouds hang over county cricket this season, and its Gods were intent on coating its worshippers with a fine film of physical symbolism.

Just as we devotees may not know quite what we're worried about, so did the mist and mizzle hang in the air. No thunderbolts from above laying waste and spreading devastation. No ululating harpies skimming across a blood red sky. Just this unnerving and irrational fear that what we've all been waiting for for six months may be endlessly postponed.

But county cricket, whilst vulnerable to the actual laws of Physics as well as, less acceptably, the bogus laws of suited speculators and cod economists, is a resilient beast. The Media Centre was bustling with friendships renewed ("did you winter well?") and memories of loved ones lost. The rightly revered Yorkshire BBC commentator Dave Callaghan, who died suddenly in the close season, was in everyone's thoughts, from the gatemen to the Chairman; but before you knew it, laughter at his joyful memory was shaking us out of the doldrums.

The spectators, who had come in good numbers despite the absolute impossibility of play, were also shaking off their morning gloom. The grunted curses and existential wailings ("what's the bloody chances of this weather? It were fine two weeks ago") were being replaced by gallows humour and the ritual sharing of packed lunches.

Before long talk actually turned to the game. Somehow, and in a testament to the enduring genius of the Championship, Yorkshire, who were until very recently talking up their chances of a hat-trick of titles are now being quietly tipped to struggle. Essex, who only two years ago were trying to work out how to get out of a second division they seemed eternally tethered to, are now the all- conquering unbeaten champions of 2017 and most people's much louder tip to win again.

To add to Yorkshire's woes, they lost Steve Patterson to a broken finger on the eve of the match as well as Plunkett and Willey to the IPL. Josh Shaw looks set to start for Yorkshire, a man about whom no one in either the crowd or the press box seems to know much.

With a bit of luck, maybe a steady breeze and a little of the forecasted sunshine, we will find out more about young master Shaw tomorrow. And so will begin the cycle of renewal. Of thrills at the unknown. At stories yet to be told. And you know what? Lots will happen.

Many people will come via computers and tablets and radios. Many, albeit fewer, will go in person and gabble excitedly, and share their sandwiches and their wine decanted into mineral water bottles and argue about the relative merits of competing middle-order batsmen. And it will be wonderful.

We just have to wait a little while longer.