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.

The Final Clonk.

Come the final clonk, was it just my thoughts that turned to Taunton? To Maynard and Trescothick and Rogers? In that shockingly brilliant, acutely personal moment of triumph for Toby Roland-Jones, forgive me but I went briefly, instinctively west.

This had nothing to do with declaration bowling. Although I recognise there will be the darkest of mutterings around the slippage from mid-afternoon phoney war towards that controversial buffet.

I could live with the idea that Yorkshire needed to leave a door swinging wide open to invite some opportunity, some *momentum* into the game. We’d all maybe prefer that spell of strategic engineering  just didn’t need to happen… but it did. And most of those bleating or tweeting about it would surely have done the same, were they in that position. Let’s move on from that.

The reason I personally thought less of Finn and co and more of Maynard’s spirited gang has something to do with abstracted, sentimental stuff. (Is that legit – legit enough to write about, by the way? And really, was it just me?)

I think, having met him, there’s something very real and likeable and tough about Maynard. He’s a bit blokey, bit beery but he’s kindof emphatically proper cricket – undeniably, somehow. My hunch is that he has something powerful and inspiring he can draw upon… and that most players receive that.

Throw in Trescothick’s delightful yeoman/stalwart/daylong-honest thing and Rodgers squat, godlike committed Aussie Senior Pro, sling in a dash of cider and how could you fail to be seduced? Maynard’s Zummerzet are scrumpaciously great plus they were the outsiders-on-a-charge. I rest my addled case.

But that’s all a bit daft. Roland-Jones won the Championship with a flamin’ hat-trick. The Beeb reckoned there were 7,000 people PLUS the members there so – no excuses – it’s goddabe all about Lords. And a truly extraordinary finish. Yorkshire, having delivered a whole load of Northern Grit did ultimately get skewered by a genuinely formidable and (let’s not forget) equally gutsy Middlesex side. Critically, the manner of all this was somewhere between fabulous and mythic.

All of us – even those absolutely behind the rush into City Cricket – can celebrate this. The Championship beating it’s heaving chest, roaring with life. Tall as Finn, hearty as Bresnan, floppy and human and frenetic as Sidebottom. Lovable and real and definitely, profoundly not dead.

Proper cricket breaking out of its own hashtag. Being a force, being defiantly, unhelpfully, pointedly and magnificently alive; not to be ignored. All of us can celebrate that, however it may colour or complicate *negotiations*. Lords was wonderful, today.

Today? When it seems years since Gubbins marched out; since Bresnan re-took that guard. Surely the ebbs and flows and dead waters of a moony calendar month have passed since start of play this morning? But no. It’s just been a gargantuan stream  of stories, unthreading, stalling, threading towards the impossible.

The end-stop, then was appropriately, outlandishly, shockingly live. Live as in noteworthy, live as in profoundly watchable, live as in some beautiful exemplar. And despite the jarring, blurring, hyperintensity of the hat-trick moment, it felt like proper cricket. Because proper cricket (though allegedly lacking the pull, the draw of other sports or formats) can be magic. Don’t forget that.