Pinch me.

Note: fear there are cock-ups in here, following failed updates. Blaming bad wifi & over-heating devices. Forgive me if I don’t straighten them all out – busy weekend with family stuff ongoing. Plus anarchy & madness very much the nature of the event.

Go on, pinch me: I’m here again. Edgbaston Media Centre, the incomparable perch thrust out and up towards that extraordinary, vivid cityscape. And again it’s sensational sunshine, that’s just how this gig *seems to be*, even during the previous, deep Autumn slot. Today we are burning or glowing whilst smiling. Or they are, the assembled lifeguards and clowns and troubadours; burning, early in the day.

Twenty-four hours ago the air-con in Bristol was a brutally chilling bastion against the prevailing swelter. Today it’s reassuringly fallible. We are burning, or sweating, or likely to, alongside the monsters and monks and fleshy party-goers in the Hollies. It feels like the least we could do. I am wearing shades, indoors, ‘cos necessary. Kohler-Cadmore is bowled, by Wells, for a stirring 66.

Yes it’s a crypto-Roses Match. Yorkshire’s (almost proper) Vikings v Lancashire Lightning. The Lankies are fielding, in their soft red clobber, with Yorks 143 for 4 at 12.08 p.m. There are best part of a hundred journo’s in this gaff* and most of them have started with puns about wilting, because this really does feel like the start of the Doomsday Desertification of Dudley, or something equivalently mundane and apocalyptic.

(*Wee note. Yesterday, for the Women’s One Day International, there were about six of us).

It may not be only Edgbaston that finds a Flintstone in the crowd and plays the(ir) theme-tune to widespread, if Neanderthal dad-dancing, but the humour (in its broadest sense) here feels if not unique, then right up there. Convivial plus. Beery but generally neighbourly, like some pagan ale-tasting pageant with sport. With the stands fully locked and loaded already – 12.24 – let’s hope the delirium continues with sufficient decorum. (Fat chance).

Meanwhile the ball is being carted all over. Lamb is in on a hat-trick in the final over of the Yorkie Knock. So madness. Fraine (of Yorks) reviews, having being pouched behind after another panto-fantasy-shot: he had looked to flip it fine and behind to leg but it flew off something to the keeper’s right hand. Not out: struck pad only. The innings closes with Vikings at 204 for 7, meaning a run-rate over ten and a rollicking day in store. If I pause it’s to look for the nearest ceiling fan…

Inter-semi-final break. Light roller and Yorkshire bullocking around the joint. Blinding.

Soon enough Salt will face Drakes, bowling sharpish left-arm over: Jennings the other opener. Here’s a phrase I might not have knocked out after six balls of the Roses Match from 1478 to about 1988: eleven off the first over. Bess’s medium-pace off-spin is similarly disrespected. 19 for 0 after 2. Revis succeeds Drakes and Fraine, at Deep Square, could be in the game. Nope; can’t reach Salt’s boomer. But there’s more.

The North Walian (Salt) is sending dispatches to Beaumaris, Llanberis and everywhere in between: that is until he’s caught behind, having plundered 20 from the new bowler. An unseemly 36 scored, for the departing opener, in yaknow, ridicutime – Salt-time? Croft comes in and calmly steers one for four, towards Wrexham.

Jennings is almost playing cricket by comparison. Maybe Croft has a word. His partner rolls on his back and cuffs an 82 mph delivery over the keeper’s head. After four overs, Lightning are 57 for 1. I need some iced water, to pour into my eyeballs. Pre that psycho-medicinal intervention, let me clarify: Salt only middled about half of those shots. The hand-speed and bat quality and I suppose the Modern Cultural Imperative does the rest. Madness.

I should stop: long day. Might go eat. (The food here is almost embarrassingly fabulous. I keep wondering if they’ll throw me out, for failing to stay cool in the face of extravagance, or Impersonating a Person of Taste and Refinement). Lancs 100 for 2 in the 8th. Nom, nom.

Game brewing, at 14 overs. 48 required. Should be ver-ry achievable but pressure/intense rivalry/sweaty palms/cahuna volume may all be pertinent variables. Lancashire Lightning should play with an amount of restraint and still get a run and a half a ball, though, right? Drakes in, to test that hypothesis. Lots of fine adjustments of the field. Impatient fine adjustments, asitappens.

164 for 2 after 15, with 41 needed. Stadium comms pumping up the crowd as Lyth turns his arm from the City End. Bits and pieces from two ‘in’ batsmen – Jennings and Vilas. Criminally Lyth (right arm slow) no-balls but the free hit finds the fielder at Deep Midwicket. Then Vilas goes six/four and that may be it. 24 from 24; Cakewalk Central in the modern game. Vilas changes gloves to settle himself and see this out.

Jennings won’t be with him at the death. A tad unnecessarily, perhaps, he hoists and is easily caught, for 75 admittedly important runs. 181 for 3. Drakes will bowl the 17th.

Vilas goes through to 50. David has joined him: he chests one down but can scuttle for the one. Correction; it’s more chin/grill than chest. Medic on, briefly. Possible run-out but the throw misses. The requirement remains at one per ball as we enter the 18th over, to be bowled by Thompson.

The first delivery looks swift, and flies through. Then two on the short side, the second flashed up and over Backward Point. Width is punished square and a drop and run gets Lancs very close. Another bouncer is guided nonchalantly behind for four, leaving only four to find.

Borderline no ball (for height, from Revis) is swung out behind square and finds the fielder. Brief review shows the delivery was narrrowly kosher so David must depart, for 10. A short one again gets the treatment; cut and carved hard over cover for six. Job done with a little to spare, for Lancashire Lightning. 208 for 4 on the board as the next protagonists wander out and breathe this all in. The stands momentarily thin.

HAWKS/SOMERSET.

Hawks, then, will bat. The much-loved Vince will watch as McDermott faces Lammonby, the Somerset left-armer. There is swing, which means wide, to leg. The day is splendiferous still. Nice in-swinging yorker has Vince watchful. Decent over, conceding just the four and fired boldly around the feet. Brooks has joined with the spirit of the day by donning a medium-garish headband. He runs in from the City. Energetic; powerful, even. 83 mph. McDermott clears the front leg, sensing width, and clatters behind Point, for six. 13 for 0 after 2.

An immediate change and it’s the Ozzie Icon, Siddle. He is cuff-driven past Mid-off, for four. Blimey. The old fella hits 87mph but this is hardly a consolation as McDermott straight drives hard to the boundary. Fifteen come from the over. Chastening? A little, but *this bowler* has been there.

Encouraging signs for Hampshire as Vince creams Brooks straight: four more. It gets scary as McDermott dances down, the bowler readjusts but the ball is still smashed over Square Leg, for six. 43 for 0, off 4.

Van der Merwe makes the breakthrough as Vince miscues high, to Mid-off. Simple catch. Tom Prest joins McDermott.

Ah. Computer glitch. Could it be the heat? Can write but the updating stalled. Switching to I-pad.

Run rate for Hawks is ten per over. Rifling through the memory bank (have been here several times) this feels like a historic high, when considered alongside the previous semi-final. Finals Day scores have tended to be beneath the 200 mark, I reckon – but ask the anoraks. 100 for 2, Hampshire, as we reach the halfway.

Siddle goes again from underneath us. Rangefinder malfunction: legside full-toss. Now the bowler is practically making love to the umpire and it’s not clear why (from up here). Free hit given and another clunky over passes. 114 for 2, with the not out batters Prest, on 27 and Weatherley on 23. Eleven overs bowled and the sense that the sunshine has dialled down, a little, out there.

Roussow makes good ground to catch Weatherley, striking straight but aerial. Goldsworthy’s second wicket, in fact.

Gregory follows, from beneath the Media Centre: stalwart. Ross Whiteley has joined Prest. He connects sweetly, left-handed, with a pull behind square: a nerve-settling boundary. Brooks will shortly be dispatched in a similar vein, perhaps with more violence, finer. There is a wee break as Prest deflects onto his grill. No dramas but new helmet required.


A wild one from Gregory is smoothed towards Backward Square but the fielder is mercilessly dummied by the bounce: four. That run rate steady at 9.5 now, give or take. Green thinks he’s in business but the fielder, diving forward, can’t gather: chalk that down as a difficult chance. 150 up, for 3 down, in the 16th.

Prest gets to 50 and Whiteley takes the long handle to Green: six. We’ll be close to 200 again, here.
Or maybe not? Whiteley gets a thick outside edge to Green and it flies at catchable height square. Four down, Fuller in and 173 the Hawk’s score, with two overs remaining. Brooks has changed ends to show us Media Peeps his headband more generously. (Still looks shite). A generous lump of low full-tosses been part of The Plan, for Somerset. Brooks now goes for the wide yorker and is unlucky as a bottom edge flies through, behind.

Van der Merwe will bowl out, from the City End. Left arm slow, around. Spears a brutal one in there. Single. Prest responds with a heave for six but then falls, looking to repeat. Solid contribution of 64, off 46. Enter Dawson. Comedy run-out – off he toddles. Ellis will be the new man… and he will likely face a single ball. Or not. After endless verbals and consultations, Ellis does duly pinch a single and we are done, at 190 for 6. Competitive, if marginally below par for the day.

Banton feels like a slightly crumpled god. Fearlessly irresistible eighteen months ago, human, now. He fends Wood to leg for one to get us going. Smeed is unzipped by the left-armer (but escapes) and the bowler is furious to have been called for a wide immediately afterwards. He has less complaint for what follows: an obvious wide and a clattered six. Wheal will bowl from the City End.

Banton smashes for maximum, the universe revolves and we find ourselves at ten an over – 20 off two. (But you knew that). Then Smeed tries to pull but strikes highish on the blade and Mid-off can claim it. Ellis is racing in fluently, shirt a blaze of yellow. He is close to claiming a further scalp as the ball flies hard but just beyond Backward Point’s left hand.

Roussow has joined Banton. The left-hander clubs Wheal straight and true and big: six. 32 for 1 and a paltry 8 an over. (*Demands refund*). Scandalous miscue from Roussow flies high over first slip, infuriatingly for Wood. Direct hit though re-establishes the Cosmic Balance; great throw from Crane does for Banton. Somerset 38 for 2 after 5 – so behind the game, for now.

Talking of things Cosmic, always loved the view here; a crescent of Ents that march away into Brum Central. Hoping one day they tear up the feeble skyscrapers in town.

Roussow is aware of the drift: a mighty six. Dawson’s left arm slow is around, to Abell, then over to his partner. 50 up, in the 6th. The batters still need to raise the level a touch. Enter Fuller from the city. Roussow doesn’t get enough of him; clumps, rather, into the deep. Easy catch at Midwicket. 50 for 3. Fine ball beats Lammonby. The required run rate is 11.7, at this point.

Widescreen look. Energetic game, these days. Fielders backing up at pace, rarely still. Walking in with intent. Zoom back in: seeing about four women amongst the hundred or so in this Press Box. Possible that none of them are journo’s. It’s a tremendous space and the hospitality is peerless, in my (o-kaaaay, limited, internationally) experience.

Abell has moved to 22 and Lammonby is 9, as Fuller comes in again. (11 overs, 78 for 3). Required run rate best part of 13. Lammonby answers the call, hitting powerfully over Long-on. I can see a drone, mozzie-like and bit sinister, somehow, about 100 yards beyond the City End. Cricket-related? Could be – no idea. Abell biffs Fuller behind square: almost six.

A wave of tiredness. Abell sweeps, low, hard, flat but directly at Deep Square. Gone. Brings in Gregory but 97 for 4 and 12-plus an over needed. Steepish? Gregory strikes clean and pure for six, bringing up the 100. Ellis races (and I do mean races) in. Draws the nick. ‘Keeper not sharp enough to respond. Not a gimme but it’s not just the Bowler’s Union wants those pocketed. Cruelly, another fine edge – bottom, weirdly – gets away from the gloves (although this time, no grief applicable).

Personal: the genuinely delightful and genuinely personable Dan (The Man) Norcross seeks me out to say hello. This rare from A Big Gun… and appreciated. Ver-ry wise and engaging gentleman: will not forget that he was the first to say hi and offer a comradely brew some years ago. (Indiscretion: plenty Leading Men are waaaay tooo busy in their cliquey wee world to venture out with a welcome). Not Ar Daniel.

Meanwhile cricket. Wood bowling full and wide. Twice. Singles. Possible run-out. slick throw and backhander from the keeper. Reviewed. Brilliant work beats the dive. 135 for 5, Green gone for 9. Van der Merwe incoming. Suddenly the required rate is 18 per over, with three overs to come. Somerset need something pret-ty special.

Like Ellis’s energy. Can’t help but feel that all this fizz deserves something – and yet we know pace on the ball can often penalise the fielding side. But the sprint and gather from Ellis is quite a sight. Eleven from the over flatters the batsmen, if anything. An unlikely 43 needed, from two.

Wood is swung out to leg but the chase for two looks tight. Another heavy, flat throw lasers in and Lammonby is a yard short: gone for 34. It’s gonna be Hawks v Lancs.

Wood persists with the wide angles, with some skill. Goldsworthy steps across and is castled, comprehensively. 152 for 8. 39 needed from 7 balls, then 38 from 6.

Ellis beats Brooks then bowls him with a well-disguised slower one. Impressive. 9 down. Siddle may be a legend but he ain’t gonna defy the maths. He ain’t, in fact, gonna do anything: bowled, first-up. Fabulous finish from Ellis backed-up by sustained intensity in the field. Hampshire Hawks puff out their chests and march off. And we all get a break.

THE FINAL.

Hampshire Hawks have won the toss and elected to bat. Lancs run through the pyroclastic ‘tunnel’ and the daft dinky-car brings out the ball. And then we’re off. Vince gets two, off Hartley, as Mid-off can only parry. There’s Proper Singing, in the crowd, unprompted by high-decibel twattery from Those Smiley People. And the smoke has cleared. McDermott sweeps, with intent for four. 9 for 0.

Sharp ball from Gleeson leaves Vince *just enough* and thrashes down the stumps. Early if not premature drama, relieving us all of a potential talisman and star – so rather shocking. Vince made 5. A tight scurry to beat the throw but a fine over draws no further significant theatre. Over to Wood.

Again, the pace bowlers are in this. Outside edge beaten. Prest and McDermott a tad unconvincing: the former is tucked-up and hurried by a fiery one and has no control: caught to leg as three fielders converge. 15 for 2, off 3 overs, with Lightning crackling. Gleeson blasts through a wildish hack from McDermott then beats the attempted spooning behind. Then some response: the same batter presents the blade and firms up his wrists, pushing downtown for four. Bounce and carry to finish – no contact. 23 for 2, off 4, so early rate well below previous totals.

Wood is pinpoint accurate and full, then beating the swing outside off. Whoooaaa – one takes off, beats the keeper’s leap and screams down to the boundary. Lively stuff from Lancs.

McDermott finally collects Wood, over Long-on. Again we had that hockey-ball sound, as though it was an 80% hit, rather than the full, sweet, nutty connection. That comes with a booming on-drive to Lamb, for six more. Nerves settle a little, in the Hawks camp. 48 for 2 at powerplay completion. Run rate improved – now at a mathematically satisfying and nicely-poised 8. Hartley, from beneath us.

The heat is leaving and the Lightning’s insipid red softening yet further. Spirits are high in the Northern camp, mind – especially as Parkinson claims Weatherley, caught Croft. The leggie’s not getting any discernible grip out there, but the flight and dip are plainly a challenge. As is the pressure, which is on. 64 for 3 after 9, Hawks.

McDermott is still battling but Dawson is impatient for the counter. He can only lift Parkinson to Vilas for another regulation catch. 67 for 4 and Hampshire in some strife. Wells will follow but he is unceremoniously clouted into the Hollies: six. McDermott backs that up with a clean off-drive for four more, bringing up his half-century. Now he’s feasting: six over Long-off. A very valuable 21 from the over. Run rate back up above 8.

Parkinson does inflammatory laps of the square, pretty much, having bowled McDermott with one that kinda snuck through. The opener gone for a hard-fought 62. Hawks have two new batters at the wicket – Whiteley and Fuller – and yes, they have a job to do. 100 up as Parkinson closes out his third over: he has figures of 3 for 24 and is an early shout for MOTM. Now Lamb.

He nearly bowls Fuller but that agricultural swipe merely precedes his demise – caught off a thick outside edge, driving. 105 for 6 may be terminal. Ellis has joined Whiteley.

Wood is rushing in from the City End. Whiteley gets a lively one high on the bat but it falls short of the legside field. But unconvincing. You can see, now, as well as feel, that the heat has throttled back. And we have shadows under the lights. Hard to tell what’s likely, now, given the wickets column. Hampshire must stay close to 8 an over, you suspect(?)

Ellis has to hit and he does get most of Parkinson. *Most*. David at Long-on has all day to see it and coolly gathers. A four-fer for Parkinson and that blood-in-the-water feeling. Five overs remaining and Hawks need fifty runs – probably – but have only three wickets in hand. Can Gleeson cash in? Not entirely, but he remains economical, which may be the same thing.

That bloody drone is up there again. Has it been there all day, I wonder? Hartley is deftly cut away for four but it’s the one blow of significance. Hants on 7-plus an over: Wood charging in. The expectation can only be around 150, maximum, now.

It may be less, because Whiteley is miscuing and the fielder can retreat to make the catch. 133 for 8. Penultimate over upcoming, from Gleeson. Full bore, at Crane and Wood. Wood booms over Deep Midwicket. Fair play – six.

Lamb will see this out, from the City End. But prolonged discussion which I can shed no light on. (No sound on the screens in the Media Centre). 144 for 8 on the board – so 150 plus likely. Hasn’t been enough earlier in the day but conditions are different, as is level of intensity.

Fielders diving to the last – as per the requirement. Quiet over and we finish on 152 for 8. 88 of the 100 journo’s present are teasing out variations of ‘well it’s something to aim at’. Me, I’m saying it’s been a long day. But Hawks have something to aim at.

THE REPLY.

Salt starts like a demon – like Salt. Looks a worldie for four balls. Gone for 10, flipping one off his ankles, aerial. Croft joins Jennings. The City has marched closer, as it does, this time of night. 13 for 1 off that first over from Wood.

Wheal, those skyscrapers shuffling in behind. Ground wonderfully still 68% full. Was it Jennings who did the ‘roll over and flippit thing, earlier? (Honestly can’t remember). Well he either does it again or follows the trend. Ridiculous and six, over Fine Leg. Wood will bowl the third.

Light ver-ry different, at half-eight. But we know the pitch is true, so one argument is that Lancs have only to play in a measured way, and be mindful of that scoring rate. They know acceleration is possible because it is possible to hit through the line – guys have been doing it since brunch. Wheal comes in and Croft plays what might be shot of the day, then refines it, to penetrate the offside for successive boundaries. Appreciative applause, for rare, almost classical quality. 46 for 1, off 4. Lightning surge ahead.

Very much enjoyed Ellis’s work earlier; getting a good, close look at him now. Against Somerset he was a City End fella; now he’s underneath us. Croft reaches a little, to drive, flirting with Mid-off, but has enough of it. Four. 50 up in this fifth over. Good comeback as the batsman is beaten all ends up, driving outside the off-stick.

A smidge of cut off the pitch, for Wood. Jennings reads it. Jee-sus. The roll and flip comes out again: contact is from a horizontal body-position with the bat just presenting for a subtle glide behind. Four runs seems inadequate: (12 and out, I say). A round 60 for 1, after 6 overs. Do the math, Einstein.

Liam Dawson does get some turn, with his left arm finger-thing. Might be interesting. Likewise Crane, the leg-spinner, who gives it quite a tweak. A cluster of wickets may be called for, to get Hawks back into this. Comedy of errors won’t help, as Crane’s revs bewilder not the batter but half his fielders. A further freak but this time it’s a pro-Hants panto. Croft is in a muddle and the ball squirts behind. The keeper juggles his knees, plays the forks for twenty minutes then claims the catch. And blow me, he’s out! Bizarre one but possibly critical. Croft had 36 and if he doubled that…

We have dusk, at 8.55, or the sense of it. Dawson is again bowling slow left-arm around. Jennings clears the front pad and pushes out the drive, erroneously. Not great; the fella’s offering catching practice to Long-off. Gift accepted. After 9 overs Lancs are 79 for 3, with two new batters at the crease, the light disappearing and the Hawks (plus fans) back in the game. Runs required at a rate of 6.9 per over, give or take. In short the environment now feels like a different place, not a ten an over place. Par has changed.

Vilas is claiming four, albeit fortuitously, mis-sweeping. Then Fuller is beating him for pace. Twice. And in between Vilas edges narrowly past the keeper – a slip would’ve eaten it. Finally Vilas connects, bringing up the hundred with a six. And now Dawson is bowling out.

Vilas push-drives again but a leaping Vince at Mid-off can make the grab. Tim David must join Wells. 105 for 4 with 7 overs remaining. 49 from 42 balls. Lancashire Lightning ahead… but those Cup Final Factors manifestly in play.

Now it’s all kicking off. Wells sweeps Crane for four but is then adjudged lb. (Looked out, live). Review. Ball-tracking says ‘missing’ but it may be one of those that raises questions. Irrelevant – on we go. 112 for 4 after 14. 41 needed off 36. Daft American Anthems (for some reason).

Ellis strays – wide given. Then great running. And then awful running but safety. Heart-rates lifting with the lights. A hoist lands harmlessly, 35 needed from 30. We’re going deep.

Fuller is good and straight. Precious dot. And another. David immediately reviews an lb decision. Smacks of confidence but is it bluff? No bat. He’s gone! Still 35 required from 27 balls. One taken, to Deep Square.

Ellis again, from our end. Slower ball nurdled off the hip. One. Middle and leg yorker squeezed out square – one more. Attempted scoop fails. Another cute slower one. Lamb beaten, by a bowler too good for him. Fine over. Can Fuller back that up? ‘Sweet Caroline’ may be deflecting the tension…

Fireworks as Lamb toe-ends up and up. Caught Vince once more. Margins suddenly ver-ry tight, as Wood guides his first ball through slip. Hawks are in it, though, no question. More than that, with 23 required from two overs they have to be favourites. How did that/does that happen? 130 for 6, Lancs. Dot ball. Boundaries or bust.

Wells swings out behind square for six. MASSIVE. But not yet enough. The four next ball might help. As will the misjudgement that follows: the fielder gets nothing on a steepling (but surely straightforward?) catch. It may not matter. Vince has shattered the stumps with another brilliant throw, to run out Wells. In a blur, Ellis is in for the last over, with 11 needed. Breathless don’t cover it. Then 7 needed off 3.

A back-of-the-hander deceives Hartley and Wood is run out by the keeper, shedding his glove.

The scoreboards are having a particularly ill-timed dispute over what’s required, which tells you something about the punch-drunk nature of the contest. Lancashire – well ahead for much of the contest – *may need 5* off the last ball. Hawks seem both determined and somehow disbelieving. Whoever wins, now, will win against the grain.

Last ball. Ellis, for me, something of a Star Man today, finishes this emphatically and unequivocally by bowling… but OH NO HE DOESN’T. IT’S A NO FUCKING BALL!!
Re-call the fireworks and do that again. (And yes, throw in a free hit, too). But do it all again.

We all shake our heads and gather and wait for the fog to clear – hilariously the fireworks have smoked us all out. It’s crazy and embarrassing and may tip us into farce. The premature ejaculation of pyrotechnics melts away unhurried. The bowler must wait at his mark.

Finally, Ellis beats the batter all over again… and the keeper stumps somebody… but the other batter thinks he’s in and races for the two that *may* bring scores level and the dugout is bawling about wickets ‘not broken’. And maths don’t matter and rules don’t matter and certainty never existed – just ask those scoreboards. It’s a non-decisive denouement.

This seems more of a philosophical intrigue than a win. The umps and the players look weirdly crestfallen, as if awaiting some Further Judgement. Hawks may want to crack the shampers and get lost in man-hugs but it takes an age. And even then it seems like something potentially reversible and un-free – like a nightmare VAR review. I’m just not gonna believe that Hampshire won this thing ’til I re-read the last sentence of this blog, at 3.42am tonight, when I wake up screaming.

That sentence will need to be clarity personified so I’m going with this baby:

I think I’m a wombat but Hawks did it.

Phew. Now find me a taxi.

Charlotte Edwards Cup – Finals Day.

I’m never late – certainly not to The Cricket.

Was a little, today. Could write a book on the serpentine delights of Southampton On Marathon-or-something Day but will spare you, for now. Bustle into the ground, post my ‘friendly chat’ with the delightful gent ushering me in to the Media Parking Zone. Six or seven journos in, including the ever-present Raf and Syd. Doors open out to a stunning scene but the chalk-white (stadium) vista gets silver behind the gold-medal experience that is the heat. I may be a tad scorcher-averse but this is… sapping.

Eight overs in. Bell has slung down some quick deliveries off a notably long run but again has sprayed them around a tad. (For me she remains A Prospect, for now, because of that consistent inconsistency). Get that what she’s doing – bowling at full tilt – is highish tarrif stuff – but she will need to mature towards consistency to get where she wants to be.

Northern Diamonds are 54 for 2 after 10 overs. Winfield-Hill and Armitage are just getting into their twenties, runs-wise. Charlotte Taylor has returned to bowl her second over. Given that we can only imagine runs should flow on this strikingly beatific summer’s day, with a bone-dry outfield and no early horrors in the pitch, Diamonds need to cut loose, soonish. Armitage goes big, or certainly high over the bowler but long off – Norris – takes a comfortable catch. The batter made 24. Her former partner is joined by Kalis.

Vipers have been efficient enough, restricting the opposition to 81 for 3 by the time 14 overs are completed. Do the math: just under 6 per over when you feel 8 may be necessary. Elwiss is inclined to remain ungenerous. She bowls full, full and Kalis misses whilst attempting a rather clumsy scoop. 82 for 4; enter the evergreen Gunn. *Thinks: is that so obvious as to be a travesty/an outright insult? Surely the long-term England player will be thinking her side need to get 130, minimum?

Winfield-Hill – who has quality but possibly not of the explosive kind; or not characteristically – unfurls a particularly pleasing straight drive, for four. Charlotte Taylor changes ends, to join us from the Hilton Hotel. Strike rotated. Five from the over, 93 for 4 after 16.

Winfield-Hill gets to 50 with a flip to fine-leg: later in the over the 100 is up. Georgia Adams is back but W-H clatters her straight for 6, then scuffs one through extra for 4. This is what the Diamonds need… and then not. Winfield-Hill advances aggressively once more but misses the proverbial straight one. Gone for 65. The left-handed Smith has joined Gunn.

They will face Bell, in the penultimate over. Too quick for Gunn. Then a single to deep extra. And a good bitta footie from the bowler stops the drive – painlessly, it would seem. Good, bold, yorker length brings just the 4 runs all told. Norris will see us out, with 120 on the board.

Diamonds can’t surge to the line – Scholfield smartly pouches Smith. Gunn smashes a defiant 6 to get the batting side past 130 and innings closes on 135 for 6. Something… but enough? (Second dig, with conditions conspiring towards scoring?) I doubt it but let’s see.

Smith and Slater have opened for Diamonds. Vipers 13 for 0 after 2. Gunn will do her mildly eccentric thing from the pavilion, starting with a wide. McCaughan guides her, late, through third man. Four. Six from the over.

I’m working – YES WORKING!! – outdoors. Risking battery failure and terminal swelteration. Like this ground but lots of glare around, today; not a problem for the players, (I imagine) but staring round the sands is positively eye-scrunging. But hey this is all, in a word, beautiful. Sunny; warm; dreamy, even. Smith (from the Hilton) is followed by Slater from in front of the team pods. It’s cat and mousey rather than dynamic, until the bowler profits from a forward lurch, from McCaughan; she is emphatically stumped, by Heath.

Gunn has switched. Weirdly, the typically influential Adams tamely biffs her to mid-on. Gunn – lacking pace and sometimes appearing to lack threat – does that, somehow. Vipers are 34 for 2 as the powerplay draws to a close. Evens, you would say.

Slater is bowling her third: Elwiss and Scholfield at the crease. Neither are ‘in’. MacDonald will bowl her first, running right to left as I look in, from backward square leg to the right-hander. The crowd enjoys a boundary – are we clear that this is the Vipers’ home ground? – but MacDonald responds by bowling Scholfield. Discombobulated by a slower ball – or so it looked. 41 for 3; maybe we /I need to review that assumption that runs are readily available on here?

Slater, who has bowled with decent pace, left-handed, has done her work: 1 for 18, from her 4 overs. Fifty is up in the tenth over as Elwiss *gets something* on it – the ball looping behind, for a tantalising four. New batter Windsor draws generous applause for racing through for a second. 54 for 3, then at half-way: interestingly, Diamonds were 54 for 2.

I’ve described the heat as sapping; it is for me but this doesn’t make it a general truth. And yet – oops, as Elwiss is caught, in another significant blow for the home side – it seems only natural to air the thought that the side currently sitting out (South East Stars) may have a keen advantage, here. Two games in these conditions feels like a big ask.

We are 64 for 4, after 12, meaning the run-rate has suddenly spiked to above 9 and Vipers have to bring their A-game, medium-pronto. Arguably their principal batters have been and gone, so, Windsor and Norris, over to you; no pressure!

Norris edges behind. The chasing fielder looks exhausted – barely claws it in and lobs in a lacklustre throw. Right-hand/left-hand combination (that everybody currently seems to be obsessed by), for the batting side. MacDonald is back in, for her third. A streaky two to fine leg means 6 from the over; not enough. 75 for 4, off 14. 61 needed; there is pressure now, alright.

Oof. Norris is caught by Armitage off Katie Levick, close to the rope. Diamonds strong favourites to meet the Stars. Windsor drives through extra for four to move to 19. Monaghan has joined her. Five overs remain; 80 for 5; rate beyond 11. MacDonald, to finish her spell.

She rather telegraphs a ver-ry slow ball but her vociferous appeal is denied. Monaghan drives then scoops: five from the over. 85 for 5 so 51 still required. Something remarkable (and out of context with the game) essential… but unlikely. Every run roundly applauded but the locals seem sure to be disappointed and they know it. 94 for 5 with Gunn to bowl the 18th. Three out, on the on-side boundary.

Painfully slow one is wide, down leg. Then another. Extraordinarily, Monaghan falls lbw to the next. 99 for 6. Bell joins Windsor, who has a creditable 31. The tall, slim fast bowler has a heave but is bowled, first-up. Game done, if it wasn’t already.

Hat-trick ball. No dramas. 100 up, from the leg bye.

The Diamonds had seemed to lack urgency with the bat and yet they are cruising: I happily confess to a misjudgement. At no stage have their opposition meaningfully threatened them, in the chase. Windsor is gallantly diving in as the throw hits – just in. Smith is bowling the 19th. She has Windsor with the return catch. 110 for 8.

As Jenny Gunn strides over to gather for the last, the Vipers can only salvage a wee bit of pride, or exercise some brief, lusty defiance. Not to be. Chandler is run out (by a mile) and the innings subsides 18 runs short, at 117 all out. To be blunt this has neither been high quality nor a particularly compelling watch. What felt like a relative lack of dynamism from both sets of batters made for a subdued affair. It remains unclear why stroke-making proved so difficult: we can only hope that the final will offer a hike in drama, edginess, ‘action’. Meanwhile, cold water all round.

THE FINAL.

Northern Diamonds have won the toss and chosen to stick with that bat first/apply pressure approach. Be really interesting to see if they go bigger and bolder from the start – suspect they might.

The extraordinary prodigy that is Alice Capsey is opening the bowling. Aged about 9. (Ok I exaggerate but…)

Four from the over. Dobson and Heath are the batters. The Stars look all shiny and bright, in their yellow shirts. Moore concedes just the one. 5 for 0 after 2. Under my wing of the stadium, it’s cooler – mercifully. Capsey in again.

Heath strikes aerially (but safe) out to midwicket, before Dobson drives for four, to cover. Richards will offer more pace, from the Hilton Hotel End but a wee sense that Diamonds are looking to push. Plusses and minuses. Dobson is caught but two boundaries come from the over. 22 for 1 after 4.

Gibbs – also offering some pace – is in from the pavilion. She goes full and is appealing confidently for leg before. Rightly; she has the potentially crucial wicket of Winfield-Hill, for no return. Armitage will join Heath. She clips neatly through midwicket – only good fielding from Moore saves the boundary. 27 for 2 after 5.

Smith follows Gibbs. Right arm slow. Simple run out opportunity spurned. Heath has left home but the slightly wild throw allows her to recover: might have been huge. Even 5s, as Diamonds sit on 30 for 2, with 6 overs done.

Gregory offers leg-spin but her long-off rather flops over the drive, from Armitage. Heath follows that up with a further boundary and 10 runs come. The same batter has to walk soon after – blown away mid-strip, by a sharp throw, from mid-off. The game feels alive, with Stars focussed (but not always athletic) and Diamonds showing some urgency, without entirely profiting. 49 for 3, off 8.

Gregory, post the wicket, gets another go. Kalis takes a single, before Armitage late-cuts, with some dexterity, for four. There has been some mixed fielding. We get more as another outfielder dives over the ball – this time at deep point. Four more: Gregory has not been best-served by her colleagues, conceding 24 from 2.

Moore will take us to halfway, from the Hilton. Quietish over; Kalis can only biff the full-toss to deep midwicket, for one. 67 for 3 after 10 is competitive – that’s my sense. Diamonds going okay. Armitage and Kalis have had a sight of this, now – on 20 and 13, respectively. Next stop 140-something?

Smith blocks one at mid-off, at some personal cost: sore wrist. Slight stalling in this period but Diamonds are going at about 6.5 per over and will look to burst. Meaning boundaries at some premium of late; suspect that may change.

Bryony Smith will bowl her third over from under the hotel. She snaffles Kalis, from a full-toss: her good hands bring in Gunn. Armitage now has 32; these two can make a telling contribution, I reckon.

Armitage clumps Moore to the square-leg boundary. Mixed over yields 8 runs. Capsey will re-join to try to stem any flow. The 100 is up, as the youngster bowls a poor wide. Radio talking 130-something but Diamonds should press towards 140, in my view. Flurry of strokes needed: expected that earlier and could be it remains elusive. 105 for 4 on the board, with 4 overs remaining. Gunn lacks power but has experience and guile. Hope she can nick it and nudge it whilst her partner lets rip.

Boundary error gifts another four. Smith, the bowler, will not be impressed… and indeed the fielder is moved. Armitage gets to a steady, rather than demonstrative 50. 121 for 4 now, with 2 overs remaining – so 140 possible but the vibe again says less. A drag down from D-Richards is struck at the fielder.

Alice Capsey will finish this. Finally, we get a boundary, – we do feel light on those – from Gunn. Two from the last ball, to Armitage, brings up the half-century partnership. Northern Diamonds post 138 for 4, with Gunn and Armitage the not-out batters, on 22 and 59 respectively. They are in the game.

The Chase.

Linsey Smith starts, for the Diamonds, with her namesake(s? Bryony) and Cranstone to face up. Three from the over. Conditions could barely be more perfect: by that I mean *in particular* that the mugginess has subsided – the langour-o-meter is now in a substantially less negative sector.

Wonder if this might energise the cricket; not that it’s been poor… but it has maybe lacked a little vim. After Slater concedes 14, Gunn will bowl the third. Both batters showing early intent: 32 for 0 after 3.

Katie Levick will bowl the fourth. Needs to apply the anchor. Does a decent job – conceding just the two runs. Good energy from the batters – whether striking hard, or drop-and-running. Crisp, confident work – the best we’ve seen all day, arguably.

Poor fielding may encourage them. More spillage at the rope is followed by a drilled six, from Cranstone. 46 for 0 after 5 – well ahead.

Cranstone takes on Levick, too. Lofted but beyond midwicket; more runs. Fifty is up – and it feels like Stars are charging. Powerplay done, no wickets lost. Ahead. Can MacDonald change things?

Not dramatically – in fact she fails to deflect that soaring run-rate trajectory. Eight from the over, leaving Stars on 58 for 0 after 7. Next up – Armitage.

Both openers are opening up. That wonderful, woody sound of hearty, smooth hitting. Boundaries around the ground. 71 for 0, suddenly, with both batters into their thirties. The energy, quality and purpose of this period of the day may be reinforcing the argument that much of went before, batting-wise, was underachievement. This is patently a different level – a better, higher one.

Ha! *Fatal*. Cranstone is gone – crunching her own stumps – but before your correspondent chokes on his curses, Capsey is both in *and scooping the first ball for four*. So change brings no change, maybe?

But no. T’other opener, Smith has also departed. At the halfway stage, Stars are 84 for 2 – needing only 55. Hmm. Now Gibbs, rather foolishly, has come and gone, hoisting Levick to deep midwicket. She could have taken a longish look and enjoyed a trouble-free cruise.. but nope. Caught. Capsey remains.

And the wobbles continue. Davidson-Richards may be mildly shocked (given where we were) to find herself extended at all. But she is joining Capsey, Franklin having been caught Gunn, bowled Levick. Extraordinary, unnecessary jolts – born of nerves, surely?

Capsey will be delighted that Armitage has bowled her the worst ball of the day, which she can dismiss at her leisure to fine leg. Twelve overs done, 96 for 4, with Capsey now on 12 and D-Richards 5. A smidge of composure should see South East Stars home… but well, yaknow.

Time for Gunn, from the Hilton Hotel. Unforgivably (at her pace) for me, she bowls another wide, down the leg side: 100 up shortly after. 37 needed, from the 7 overs remaining. Capsey hits MacDonald over (but close to) mid-off, for four. Sure, the run rate has dropped from where it was when the openers were fizzing, but this batting partnership looks to have this covered… he said, dangerously.

Capsey has heard me. She booms confidently downtown, for four more. Stars have 5 overs to find 20. I expect them to do it in 3, max. (Capsey has heard me – again. Four more: this is brilliant, from the teenager).

Richards is joining the fun – reversing. NINE RUNS ONLY, FROM FOUR OVERS. Emphatic.

Gunn. That ridicu-slower-one comes out. Capsey is on it. Davidson-Richards reverses again, for a single. The batters are seeing Gunn out. 6, from – well, ample.

MacDonald is in from under the pavilion. Single. Then two. Fifty partnership, three needed and Richards has a dart for glory… but picks out mid-off. Gone. White will join Capsey. Dot ball. Single. Capsey to face. Appropriately, she clips neatly square, to win it for her side. The small crowd clap both sides generously from the outfield.

A lovely day, with some good cricket. Fine venue. A little disappointment that we didn’t see more high quality stroke-making but Smith and Cranstone – opening for the Stars – and Capsey, later, entertained us. The rest found it tricky. Could be that this is an ungenerous view but mostly I have form for actively supporting these players: they deserve it and it feels important. I absolutely and wholeheartedly congratulate South East Stars, as deserved winners.

What I normally do is sleep on this then add a few reflections. Having just arrived back at my son’s college digs, in Bath, you may forgive me if I continue that tradition – there being no truth in the rumour that a ver-ry pleasant café-bar lies but 75 yards away. (Cue choice of smug or smiley emoji)…

How did I get here?

So. We’re with David Byrne, right? Scrambling for sense in a trippily colorific world. In the sunshine – or is that floodlight? – in the city – but look at all those trees! Squeezed between giddyingly gaudy, pyroclastic sport-of-the-now and the river. Wondering…

How did I get here?

No idea if Robert Croft likes Talking Heads (some would say he certainly is one) but the Glamorgan gaffer has needed to say something. His side have been alarmingly exposed too much already in the county season in a way he simply will not accept: three consecutive defeats culminating in the extraordinary but surely dispiriting pasting at Cheltenham.

My sense is that Croft is tough, however and crucially that although he must be feeling personally slighted by the suspicion recent matches have featured capitulations, he does believe in his team. Not as champions or even leading contenders but as guys building.

I’m not party to real policy – who is, amongst us scribblers? – but I am aware of a deep commitment to developing talent, with some emphasis on Welsh players. At Glam this of course flows down from the very top, Hugh Morris being emphatically behind the  notion that it’s right, as well as financially necessary, to seek after local gems; all this implies Project Patience.

Of course Big Name Signings have to be factored in and Glammy have, in the recent past gone (I’m guessing!) as big as they dare to secure the likes of Steyn and Shaun Tait to lift attendances and results. De Lange is maybe this year’s arguably slightly lower profile star but the standout signature for the tilt at glory is a re-signature, this year – that of Colin Ingram.

Which brings us to the white ball… and to the river.

Ingram is a precious talent – one that must surely have been tapped-up by pals from Pietermaritzburg, agents from Vauxhall. He is a whirlwind, a destroyer, a smiter of mighty blows. He may well, by the way, be magnificent at four, possibly five day cricket; but Ingram was made for 20 overs.

I met his father briefly at a T20 in Cardiff last year and he told me ‘he’s just loving his cricket’. Arguably flimsy evidence for me to remain hopeful that Ingram still is content at (lowly?) Glamorgan, that he knows this is his moment and that he can channel the white-heat, the adrenalin, the spectacular focus and again go beautifully monstrous.

Many will hope that Donald and Cooke pitch in with the bat and that Hogan and De Lange can be wily or sharp enough to stem the flow from t’other end, as it were. Whichever way it’s hard to escape the feeling that the season has been building (and the team shaped) towards this T20Blast competition.

There are clearly pressures around the notion that Glamorgan kinda have to be a white ball county; given current status, balance, quality – given the real world. Croft and co have looked set (and more controversially, maybe like they’re settling?) for #T20Blast for months. They fit the c.v. – they feel competitive in a way they don’t at the longer formats – and maybe I’m including 50 over cricket in that category. (*Sign of the Times* alert).

How hugely the great capitalist shadow falls across this squad/format/direction equation is another great unknowable: tonight, pre-match, I don’t care. What matters in this glassy, summery, spring-coiled moment is the degree to which Glamorgan can grab.

The game; Hampshire to bat. Coolish summer eve – pret-ty close to ideal for sport.

A look at the teamsheets suggests Hants have the weightier characters, perhaps (Abbot, Bailey, Vince, Carberry, Afridi?!?) but who knows? I can however report with some certainty that for me that everyday nervous thing is coloured up or sharpened just a tad by the feeling that Glammy must really go to work – that this is their season.

Vince had other ideas. He twitches and sprints off the mark; Hants are 40 for nothing, sharpish. But Hogan has that hand nice and high, and TVG is bowling with some venom. Salter seems purposeful. If a team can be said to share body language…

Wickets fall. Hampshire are 72 for 4 in the tenth; things poised.

Salter and TVG make for an encouragingly testing combo. The blonde bombshell accelerating in hard and zapping the deck, the Pembrokeshire twirler bustling through, changing it. Notable that Van der Gugten bowls almost entirely back of a length (or shorter) at Bailey and MacManus and that the batsmen pass on the invitation to hook big almost completely. Plans, eh?

88 for 4 off thirteen. It’s hardly explosive stuff – for all his worldly experience Bailey feels a disappointment. Hants are going at seven an over without dominating. Sixes are a rarity, control in some dispute.

Suddenly MacManus smashes two off two (sixes that is) as we  close out the 16th on 116 for 4. Gear change? Ye-es but not emphatically so: MacManus will eventually battle through to 50 and beyond without absolutely bossing the scene. (Tonight, nobody does, in fact).

Early in the seventeeth MacManus dismisses De Lange back over his head for a booming maximum. (OK, pedants, not maximum just six). The visitors are plainly heading for a goodish total but this hasn’t felt especially one-sided: given recent history might Glam settle for that? Hopefully not.

Croft’s side’s time in the field felt efficient enough rather brilliant: they were unlucky – seven or eight times miscues or aerials just fell short of the onrushing fielder. Finally MacManus holed out to a diving cover in the last over (167 for 5). A serious challenge, then.

Lloyd and Donald to open for Glammy but the former’s cutting and tickling the first ball… behind, disappointingly. Topley the bowler. In comes Ingram, already a high percentage of hopes resting on him and the young man opposite.

Sharp intake of breath as Ingram is caught, outstandingly, flaying wide, at extra cover by Berg and Glamorgan are 3 for 2 after the first over. The thought registers rather darkly that the incoming Rudolph may have to find something unexpectedly maaarvellous, here.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the dynamic Donald that takes it to the enemy. Again he appears bright and almost fearless – raising that bat intimidatingly high and baseball-like as Topley charges in. He flukes a poor four before middling a couple to leg but the intent – that waggling, pre-hook backlift – is clear and positive.

Rudolph is from another generation but can he glide through this and shepherd the innings? Be the statesman to Donald’s stag? With Glammy at 24 for 2 off four, it seems that natural Rudolph will anchor and/or thread singles whilst Donald biffs the thing around.

With Donald so obviously set up to slap everything through midwicket, I wonder if Hants might bowl full at off-stick and get him playing across. Saw no sign of that approach. He’s done, in the end by spin, in any case. When Donald is swiftly followed by Carlson – for nought – the crowd re-calibrate their optimism. Glam are 47 for 4 after 8.

When Rudolph chips the energetic Afridi to short mid-off, the Glam faithful – and those critical newcomers, on a boozy or family night out – begin to fear capitulation, which would feel disastrous for the season, never mind the night. At 54 for 5 off 10, things look bleak.

Wagg finally connects with Afridi, smashing a straight six but the runrate is above ten per over at the halfway: too much. Unless…

Glamorgan reach the hundred five wickets down at the end of the 13th. Extraordinarily, the generally dynamic Cooke has been relatively soporific – certainly compared to his partner Wagg – who sits on 43, at this point.

Afridi is bowling incredibly quick ‘legspin’. Perhaps it’s this that unsettles Cooke, who spoons to off and is caught, rather tamely. Enter Salter.

Ultimately Wagg makes a brave 50 before driving to mid-off. Salter and De Lange have no option but to blast and hope, in the last four, with 54 needed(!) However they have mixed success and Topley deceives the South African paceman with a slower ball.

TVG bolts the first ball of the 19th from Topley past midwicket for 6, keeping the game alive – as in alive-but-surely-dead? The England paceman responds with two stunning yorkers and Glam need 27 to win it from Berg’s final over.

TVG is caught at deep mid-on off the first ball. Glamorgan finish 22 short, Salter swishing his blade violently in disappointment.

The suspicion remains that Glamorgan must find some collective inspiration and look to bursts of unanswerable brilliance from Ingram, Donald (possibly) with the bat and from Van der Gugten, De Lange or Hogan with the ball.

This can happen. Croft’s job is to stimulate and support those aspirations – to help build beyond expectation.