Cricket in England spent 2019 oscillating between breathless, disbelieving joy, and suspicion at what the future may hold.
Cricket is a complex sport which takes a long time to play – even a T20 match is much longer than the longest footbal or rugby contest – and it stimulates reflection. And, when human beings think about things, they can be optimistic or they can be pessimistic, they can be serene or they can be angry; they can focus on problems or they can offer solutions. In 2019, blogs did all these things.
Matt Becker, at Limited Overs (limitedovers.wordpress.com), gave his customary deeply felt American take on events at Lord’s on 14 July, and the role played by Ben Stokes. ‘Stokes, shaking off Bristol once and for all. Stokes, so tired at the end he could barely lift his arms. Stokes, leaning on his bat, in the shadows of a London late afternoon…begging for his chance to win it for his adopted country, only to fall just short. And then a few minutes later, walking out to bat the super over his kit grass stained and filthy, ready to give just a little bit more’.
So much for Sunday’s hero, whose season-defining brilliance had just begun. For all that day’s drama, and the unprecedented nature of its conclusion, James Morgan, at The Full Toss (thefulltoss.com), adopted a more nuanced position. Amid the celebrations, and the peculiar experience of talking about cricket to people who have never previously shown any interest in it, Morgan spoke for those of us who felt conflicted about the game and its outcome.
‘Why did England have the opportunity to bat first? Again it’s just an unfair technicality. It’s written in the rules that the team batting second in the main event gets to bat first in the super over. Why this should be the case nobody knows. It just is. And there’s no rhyme or reason for it’. ‘…Ultimately an outrageous fluke and a random technicality determined the outcome’.
‘So did England deserve to win yesterday’s World Cup final? In my opinion, no. But are they worthy world champions? Oh yes. Undoubtedly. This tournament was a marathon not a sprint. And we outlasted every other team through pure talent and immense character’.
When Ben Stokes consolidated his legend at Headingley in late August, Rick Walton (cricketmanwales.com) captured both his sense of place and time, and his amazement, at what we had all just witnessed. ‘Ben Stokes. Crazy, wonderful, tattooed euphoria and a free glass of chilled white from young Tom…’. ‘How in god’s name did it actually happen? From Buttler/Woakes, how the hell did that happen?’
Meanwhile, The Hundred hung like a spectre over the game’s future. Steve Dolman, at Peakfan’s Blog (derbyshirecricket.blogspot.com), spoke for many. ‘Since it was first touted, the marketing and publicity behind this competition has been a shambles. From saying it was not aimed at the traditional fan (silly) to simplifying it for Mums and kids (patronising) to choosing Test Grounds to host it, but not Durham (absurd) it has been pathetic’.
Away from all the discontent, Marco Jackson (frominsideright.wordpress.com), with a series of ‘Trips in Cricket’, provided a reminder of the emotions that are stirred by days at the cricket, and by wonderfully evocative and elegant writing. One of his posts about a visit to the St. Lawrence Ground in Canterbury was so stunningly good that it seems invidious to reproduce any extracts in isolation. However, he did leave the reader with a vivid memory of late summer and an admirable piece of cricket-watching philosophy:
‘By now, the peak of summer is come and gone, the greens turned brown, the grasses now bent and bowed yb harvest and harvester. The days themselves may still be golden, but the fields tell the story of an Autumn that will soon be upon them. Enjoy the summer while it lasts, they say, and I intended to do just that; make cricketing hay while the sun shines’.
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, 2020