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It is time I outed myself: I don't like hot weather. "Pleasantly warm" is fine - but there were times during July 2006 when watching cricket became, for me, really hard work. With the shade temperature in many parts of England approaching or even exceeding 35°C (95°F) at times, often accompanied by high humidity levels, many of us might have felt happier in an air-conditioned office.
It is widely assumed that hot weather is good weather for playing or watching cricket. There are thousands of people who feel the way I do, yet the occasions when anyone has publicly voiced discomfort in England have been so uncommon that they seem like aberrations.
John Arlott complained about the heat on a day just short of 30°C, as the sun streamed into the old commentary box during the Oval Test in 1968. But he gained very little sympathy from his fellow commentators. I also remember Tommy Greenhough, the Lancashire legspinner, having a disappointing tour of the West Indies in 1959-60 because he could scarcely grip the ball thanks to heavy perspiration. A fellow sufferer, I suspect.
As Britain's climate grows warmer, there will be more of these "difficult" days. Those visiting cricketers who scoff at the English summer would do well to remember that the temperature on London's hottest days climbs higher than it does in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Johannesburg, Auckland or Harare.
The domestic season of 2006 brought some sharp contrasts. Although both June and July were consistently hot and sunny - July hotter and sunnier than any month in recorded history - there were some lengthy periods of very disturbed weather in the earlier and later summer.
Much of April had been nondescript, meteorologically speaking, and the last few days were cold, with night frosts. May began with two weeks of blue skies and warm sunshine which just about held on for the mid-May Lord's Test, but the remainder of the month was cool and excessively wet. Following the heatwaves (Wisley in Surrey logged 36.5°C or 97.7°F on July 19) the weather crashed at the beginning of August: daytime temperatures averaged almost 6°C lower than in July, and rain fell hard and often in central and eastern counties of England - though southern and western parts escaped the worst of the rain. September was dry and sunny for a fortnight, but the season ended under gloomy skies with occasional heavy downpours.
The meteorological statistics, averaged over England and Wales, for the 2006 season, were as follows:
The allows us to compare the summer county by county. The index incorporates rainfall amount and frequency, sunshine, and temperature, in a single figure. The formula is explained in Wisden 2004 (page 1597). The final index ranges from zero for the theoretical worst possible summer to 1,000 for the theoretical best.
The score for an average recent summer ranges from 525 at Chester-le-Street and 530 at Old Trafford to 670 at Lord's and 675 at The Oval. Broadly speaking, an index over 650 indicates a good summer whereas one below 500 would be poor. Values for each county for the summer of 2006 against the average for the standard reference period of 1971-2000 are:
All counties enjoyed another above-average summer. Surrey and Middlesex habitually top the table but the best weather in 2006 was claimed by Somerset, closely followed by Hampshire, thanks to their relatively dry August. It is rare, too, for Durham and Lancashire to vacate the bottom places, but in 2006 Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire beat them to it. Suggestions that the weather robbed Lancashire of the Championship require a detailed analysis. But the summer as a whole was much better than average in Manchester - the best since 1995, in fact - and the gap between Lancashire's and Sussex's scores was the smallest since then.
Last season's national index of 633 was ten points higher than that of 2005, but still slightly short of the good summer of 2003. The record high, 812, was set in 1976. The lowest, 309, was in 1879.
England's one-day series in India in late March and April was played in great heat and humidity. At Jamshedpur on April 12 the official maximum temperature at the airport was 43°C (109°F), and it was undoubtedly hotter in the cricket stadium. The ECB should really not agree to series in India of Pakistan in April, when shade temperatures can peak at 45-50°C (around 120°F). This is not just uncomfortable; it is life-threatening.