The days may be short, the nights long and brooding but a shaft of summer arrives during the latter half of November. All but two months after Middlesex dramatically claimed their first county championship title in twenty-three years the following season’s county championship fixtures have been released. Not quite with the same alacrity and bravura as those from the football brethren, which arrive barely five minutes after the previous season has concluded seemingly so as to stop supporters potentially looking elsewhere during the summer recess, but quick enough so that there is a ray of sunlight upon which to gaze forward. First search inevitably heads towards the fixtures of one’s home county but, for the Hampshire fan, it’s a fairly futile exercise as every day of cricket hosted by the Tudor Rose county will be played at the dull and soulless Ageas Bowl.
Rather, one’s eye then begins to head further afield: any new grounds? Any play on Bank Holidays? How about a trip to Oxford for a spot of free first class cricket between the eponymous university and one of the eighteen members of the county championship? Even the odd T20 match could be squeezed in now they are mostly played on Friday nights under lights.
Ultimately, it is a planner’s dream, and a summer’s spectating can be mapped out, holidays can be squeezed in accordingly and the required amount of days off tallied. For a few moments the cold, wet darkness of winter can be dispelled as mental visions of sultry summer days hearing the crisp thwack of leather on willow followed by the equally crisp cry of “Waiting……no run!” whilst consuming a hearty lunch and indulging in the odd doze can be played out in one’s mind. The fun can really begin once the Minor Counties and Second XI fixtures are made public a few weeks down the line.