Hampshire Cricket History

FC: 2015
January 9, 2021, 8:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Nearing the end of this survey – and a rather long one today

England drew 1-1 with New Zealand (2 Tests) and beat Australia 3-2 (5). In 2015-2016 they lost 2-0 to Pakistan (3) and beat South Africa 2-1 (4).

Champions: Yorkshire; RLC: Gloucestershire; T20: Lancashire

The County Championship was being honoured in 2015 – at least by those who agreed with this version of the dates – in its 125th anniversary, not least by a splendid book by Stephen Chalke, supported by the ECB. The current version of that tradition, setting aside any tinkering with bonus/draw/win points, the fixture list or numbers of teams promoted and relegated, had been in place for just 15 of those years. Yorkshire were Champions again, winning 11 of their 16 matches and finishing 68 points ahead of runners-up Middlesex. Second Division Champions Surrey were top-scorers with 41.91 runs per wicket; Yorkshire at 37.93 led the First Division and were best overall wicket-takers at 27.62, while their pitches also topped the Table of Merit.

In the Royal London Cup, Glamorgan’s match with Hampshire at Cardiff was abandoned because of a dangerous pitch; the groundsman resigned and Glamorgan were fined £9,000 and two points, while the match statistics were deleted from all records – unlike the two recently abandoned Test Matches in the Caribbean. Benefits for county cricketers continued, but in the autumn of 2015 the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced plans to hit them hard with the ending of the tax-free bonus.

Eoin Morgan replaced Alastair Cook as captain of England’s ‘white ball’ sides. Australia and New Zealand hosted the latest World Cup, which began on St Valentine’s Day 2015. There were 14 teams, 14 venues and 49 matches over a period of six weeks before the host nations met in the Final, which Australia won by seven wickets. It was a complicated year for the management of English cricket; ECB’s new chairman, Colin Graves, previously chairman of Yorkshire and also of Costcutter stores, took over from Giles Clarke who was promoted to the role of President. In the Daily Telegraph, Simon Briggs wrote of Clarke’s “eight turbulent years”, ranging from the farcical ‘deals’ with criminal fraudster Allan Stanford in 2008, to his embarrassing outburst at editor Lawrence Booth during the Wisden dinner at Lord’s to launch the 2015. Booth, for his part, listed any number of problems including the mishandling of the Pietersen issue, poor Test Match attendances outside London, “a head-in-the-sand” attitude to England’s limited- overs team and a fall in the number of recreational cricketers: the ECB recorded just fewer than 850,000 players but almost 600,000 of those played very occasionally or perhaps between three and 11 weeks, while just 250,000 could be considered regular club/school cricketers and despite huge investments in Chance to Shine, County Boards and the like, the number was falling. In Wisden, editor Lawrence Booth noted that despite winning the Ashes not one of England’s players had made the 12-strong shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. The competition had been won four times by cricketers, starting with Jim Laker in 1956 but only Andrew Flintoff (2005) in the past 30 years. Ben Stokes would be the fifth in 2019.

Back at the highest level, Booth cited the removal of live Test cricket from free-to-air television after the thrills of 2005 as a key factor in the decline of participation in the sport. By the start of his period of office in May 2015, Graves was clearly dissatisfied with England’s winter performances and the Ashes defeat of 12 months previously. In April, even before he took office officially, Paul Downton was sacked after just 14 months and Andrew Strauss replaced him. In May, Strauss then sacked Peter Moores who learned of this through media leaks during an abandoned ODI against Ireland. Graves suggested that Kevin Pietersen should play in the Championship for Surrey because “if he scores a lot of runs, they can’t ignore him”. He did, but they did. On 10 May he finished the day 35* for Surrey v Leicestershire. He batted throughout the next day, reaching 326* at which point Andrew Strauss visited him at the ground to tell him he would not be selected for England. His innings finished on 355*. In his Daily Telegraph column Pietersen reported that he was “absolutely devastated”.

Strauss appointed Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace to replace Moores, and England regained the Ashes in a home series, under Alastair Cook. Since England had won them back in 2005 on terrestrial TV the Ashes had changed hands – exclusively on Sky Sports – in 2007 (Australia), 2009 (England), 2014 (Australia) and 2015 (England). At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad’s 8–15 were the third best figures ever for England against Australia, bettered only by Jim Laker’s two performances at Old Trafford in 1956. For the Final Test at the Oval a group of protesters assembled, representing the organization ‘Change Cricket’. Among their numbers, expressing concerns with the management of world cricket were the conservative MP Damian Collins and journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins who had been responsible for the challenging documentary film Death of a Gentleman.

In July, the ECB appointed Lord Patel of Bradford to its board hoping that the Labour Party peer would help the ECB to establish better working relationships with British-Asian cricketers and communities. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were two ‘representatives’ of these communities in England sides in this period. Also in July, following a full ECB board meeting, the Times suggested the likelihood of a proposal for two T20 domestic competitions to alleviate the anxieties of the ‘smaller’ counties that they would otherwise be disenfranchised by a new idea about a city-based, eight team contest. This of course would become ‘The Hundred’. While many members and supporters feared further reductions in ‘traditional’ county cricket, the PCA reported a survey of 240 of its members, with almost 88% wishing to see a reduction in the amount of cricket played, although 83% believed the County Championship to be the “premier” competition. Former Test cricketer, Tim May, who had also led the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), told the Times, “There is a general dissatisfaction with the game’s governance. Other bodies believe they can globalise the game in a more equitable fashion.” In November, Australia met New Zealand in the first ever day/night Test Match with the Times asking in a headline, “Can pink balls save Test cricket?”

In the summer of 2015, journalist Scyld Berry published Cricket: the Game of Life, covering a range of topics from a long career reporting on England and English cricket. One of the key issues was summarised in an article in the Daily Telegraph in August under the title: “A game now in danger of shrinking into a middle-class niche.” The subtitle suggested, “cricket has failed to exploit the inner cities”. Berry offered some statistics about English cricketers who had gone on to play for England with the highest proportion coming from Yorkshire, then London, then Lancashire. In addition, no fewer than 40% of England’s Test Match players have had a close family member who had also played first-class cricket. Even more obvious is the statistic that one third of England’s 667 Test Match cricketers (Berry concluded with Adil Rashid) were privately educated, whereas fewer than 10% of young people attend such establishments. Much the same statistic was rolled out during the 2012 London Olympics and it was repeated again with the New Year’s Honours List of January 2016. If you attend a state school your chances of significant achievement are reduced proportionally.

In the autumn came the news that Northamptonshire were in financial trouble. The BBC reported a loan of up to £250,000 from their local council; one of a number of sources to enable the club to “restructure” after their accounts showed a loss of £305,636 on a turnover of just over £3.7m.

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