Somerset's waiting game presages the onset of winter

Somerset's cricketers have done all they can to win the County Championship. Now all they can do is wait Getty Images

Prospero is right. Our revels now are ended. Well, not quite, of course. They concluded here at Taunton on the third evening of this match with a skied catch, a retirement and much hurrahing in harvest. But, as the mowers trim the County Ground's deserted square, cricket continues at half a dozen other venues around England, and at three of them matters of great moment are to be decided.

All Somerset's players and supporters can do is sit in their many pavilions and wait upon the Lord's judgement. Perhaps that is not an inappropriate occupation in this church-towered town, to where, in 1798, Coleridge walked 11 miles from Nether Stowey to conduct services at Mary St. Chapel. There will be prayers today, too.

And this evening the season will be done with. Both Championship and relegation will be decided and writers will be left to produce reviews of it all. Before long the players will depart for golf, for holidays with their families and for deserved rest.

For over five months they have delighted and intrigued us. And perhaps it is only as the season closes that we fully appreciate the level of skill on show. Consider Jack Leach, for example: he is able to bowl a cricket ball so that it lands as often as not on a particular spot some 20 yards distant; not only that but the ball will be spinning away sharply from the batsman and looping with overspin so that the batsman may be deluded into thinking that it will land nearer to him than it eventually does.

Or there is a batsman, James Hildreth, shall we say, who can hit a ball travelling at 80mph precisely between two fielders with, among many other arts, a turn of the wrists and a transference of weight. What complexity of brain, nerve and sinew is needed to do that? Only when you reflect on these skills is their full stature revealed; in the high days of summer they can be taken for granted or remarked upon only when absent.

Something like this was noticed by the great essayist William Hazlitt in his classic 1821 essay The Indian Jugglers:

"Coming forward and seating himself on the ground in his white dress and tightened turban, the chief of the Indian Jugglers begins with tossing up two brass balls, which is what any of us could do, and concludes with keeping up four at the same time, which is what none of us could do to save our lives, nor if we were to take our whole lives to do it in. Is it then a trifling power we see at work, or is it not something next to miraculous?"

"For over five months they have delighted and intrigued us. And perhaps it is only as the season closes that we fully appreciate the level of skill on show"

And county players do these things for over five months of the summer in a wide variety of conditions against opponents whose skills are quite the equal of their own. Their efforts make up a pageant which bewitches their teams' many supporters and causes them to follow their results even when living very far away.

And to most county cricketers and supporters it is the Championship which matters most of all. As I am writing this the Stragglers Café below me is filled with Somerset supporters, all of them hoping against reason that nobody wins the game they are watching. You cannot move for wyverns on chests or anxious looks on faces. In 2012 the former Somerset committee member, Roy Harris, died but asked his grandson to promise that he would be present if his beloved county won the Championship. Yesterday the gentleman turned up at the latter stages of the match wearing his grandfather's Somerset blazer. He had travelled from Iceland - the country, not the frozen-food joint.

And this is the competition of which we must have less? This piece is being written by someone who has enjoyed T20 games and been amazed by the inventive skills on show. Yet also by someone who understood precisely what Stephen Chalke meant when he entitled his history of the County Championship Summer's Crown.

It is easy to be seduced by enmity or to assume that those who run the ECB are double-dyed malefactors with the game's worst interests filling their evil minds. They are not like that. But they have done nothing for their case by failing to ask the current supporters of county clubs what they think of their ideas. Our masters look a little rude. For it is a curious plan which is predicated more on speculation as to who might attend cricket matches than the evidence of those who actually do. I'm not sure I would trust a doctor who told me my heart was not terribly important.

Advertising boards are being removed from the County Ground. An area has already been roped off for later in the afternoon when players will either be consoled by the media or begin a celebration which will last until All Souls' Day. But wherever the title ends up, cricket grounds are settling quietly into autumn and winter. Business will continue, of course. There will be conferences and Christmas parties. Press boxes will be filled with discussions of sales figures and exam papers; the members' suites will be given over to wedding receptions and retirement do's.

Then spring will come, freezing cold as likely as not, but the players will still begin their outdoor practice in England. They will be back with their gripes and their groin strains, their-odd warm-ups and their lovable clichés, their absurd level of skill which they will offer us from April to September. Miranda was right, too. O brave new world that has such creatures in't.

And so we wait in this Tyrolean chalet of a press box at Taunton. Before us is perhaps the most-mentioned range of hills in county cricket. On the outfield Somerset's cricketers are playing football with their children. Perhaps they cannot bear to watch the television. To our left is the full glory of St James's and its churchyard, and behind us are the tree-thronged humps of the Blackdowns. Throughout the town people are talking about two sessions, chuck-ups and when Middlesex might pull out. It is no good saying that it will be easy to leave all this for another season but we are tougher than we think; and complex in ways beyond our imaginings.

But then, you see, Prospero was correct in another respect, too. We are such stuff as dreams are made on.