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Tanya's Take

Damn the bloat

Day-nighters in autumn? English cricket has crossed a certain line with this one

Tanya Aldred
Tanya Aldred
Ashley Giles and Darren Maddy wrap up against the cold, roars an appeal, Warwickshire v Worcestershire, Edgbaston, April 17, 2008

Brrr: too cold even for Darren Maddy  •  Getty Images

The little legs running to school are now clad in grey socks and the conkers drop plump in the park. Every night the curtains draw together a little earlier, and yet the English cricket season still lives and breathes.
When I regularly covered county cricket, I used to love going to the last Championship matches in September - the sun lower, the starts earlier, the last balls of the last over being bowled towards dusk. They seemed romantic somehow, part of the natural order, tolling the end of another summer, another dream, another career.
Sometimes these last days are full of drama, like in 2007, when Sussex won the Championship title on the final day after Lancashire fell just 25 short in an unbelievable run-chase, and then last year when Durham won the title for the first time, on 27th September.
But even when the title has been decided with a few games to play, like this summer, there is still something to play for, something to watch for. Personal battles for 1000 runs, 50 wickets, a contract, or to catch a new chairman's eye. For those hanging up their hats this year - Andy Caddick, Justin Langer and Mark Ealham are among those bowing out - it is a chance to say goodbye on a high. Way back when the then showpiece of the season, the Natwest final, was played on the first Saturday in September, it was widely thought of as the last place for a player to shine before the winter tour squad was chosen.
There are those who have had enough, of course. Many perhaps, whose season has been blighted by loss of form, injury or a losing side. The long days spent on the field or sitting on the balcony playing poker have lost their appeal. Last season even Darren Maddy, perhaps the Englishman most in love with cricket, admitted after a rain- and injury-ravaged campaign that the end came as a welcome break.
Sometimes that is true for the journalists and spectators too, part of a little community with the players, who will part at the end of the season not to see each other until the following spring when they arrive, bat, Playfair or thermos in hand and full of hope. Yes, September has a special feel to it.
At Trent Bridge on Thursday there were scarves and even a pair of red woollen gloves. And as Graham Onions sat on the bench, shoulders hunched as he did up his fleece, he didn't look an advert for the joys of the game
But there is a line and I fear English cricket has crossed it. September is being milked dry. Day-night cricket in England in September - that's just a little crazy. And as for seven day-night internationals in the first month of autumn - just look at the hoodie-clad crowd during the yellow-and-gold wash that has been unfolding before us. At Trent Bridge on Thursday there were scarves and even a pair of red woollen gloves. And as Graham Onions sat on the bench, shoulders hunched as he did up his fleece, he didn't look an advert for the joys of the game.
The ODI games have been a sellout and the weather has really not been that bad, but three months after midsummer, the nights are cool verging on cold. They are not meant for sitting on your bottom till 10 o'clock with the dew and a damp sports section for company.
A bucketload of one-day matches on the back of the Ashes always risked being anti-climatic - and with England doing their best Calamity Jane impression you just hope the experience hasn't put off any spectators who were attending games for the first time. Certainly any wider interest dwindled on the back of defeat and more defeat and the cold and contrasting claims of the Premiership and the Champions League - which seems awful when less than a month ago Andrew Strauss was triumphantly lifting the Ashes. But too much is too much, and the more there is, the less interesting it becomes.
But yet the game refuses to stop growing. Today England's players fly out to the Champions Trophy the opposite of refreshed. The viewing figures in this country will not be great. There will be more cricket next year, squeezed in during the gaps that weren't there this time round. There will be more one-dayers against Australia, a prospect that probably fills Andrew Strauss's darker sleeping moments.
But that's for April, for the domestic season, at least, does pull the plug in September. April brings with it different thrills: promise and hope. Even if, next year, the season begins on April 3.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian