While for most cricket fans across the world the start of the season is associated with freshly cut grass, clear blue skies and warm dry pitches, for an English cricket fan cold, damp drizzle is the image most linked with the season’s opening round of games.
It was in front of this soggy backdrop that the traditional season curtain-raiser between the MCC and the county champions, in this case Durham, took place last week, at the home of English cricket – Lords.
To some players the occasion wasn’t just a friendly warm-up, it was a chance to impress the England selectors with a busy international summer ahead of us.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan, opener Rob Key, Ian Bell and keeper James Foster all went into the game hoping to get runs under their belts.
Vaughan, who hasn’t played for England since last summer, knows his experience in the field and the dressing room will be invaluable (he has won the Ashes before after all) but with only the number three position vacant in the international side he needs to show he can make runs with the bat before he can add to his 82 test caps.
Bell is under pressure after underperforming throughout the winter. He needs a good start to the domestic season more than anyone if he is to keep his place. Rob Key meanwhile hasn’t won an England cap for four years. Despite that prolonged international exile the Kent skipper, who has previously led the England Lions side, is many people’s tip to captain England in the upcoming 20/20 World Cup.
James Foster is the latest contender to try and replace Alec Stewart behind the stumps (bearing in mind Stewart – our last established wicket-keeper – retired six years ago!), even though Foster last played for England in 2002.
So, now for the cricket review. Amid the gloom and damp of Lord’s how did the players perform?
Well, a combined runs total of 32 isn’t going to leave the Aussies quaking in their boots, and hardly gives the England selectors a headache either.
Vaughan (12), Bell (12), Key (5) and Foster (4) all failed with the bat as the game petered out to a soggy draw.
There was enough time, however, for former Somerset skipper Ian Blackwell to complete his century as Durham posted 311-4.
Blackwell lost 10kg during the winter in an attempt to rekindle England ambitions – the left-hander played the last of 34 one-day internationals on the tour of India in 2006. Speaking after the innings on Friday, Blackwell said he wanted to get his name “back in lights” and push for an England recall.
Well he certainly did that, leaving some more illustrious opponents in the shade.