Like a letter arriving through your mailbox, the 2022 cricket season soon arrived at my door. Following my limp efforts during the run drought of 2021, I was steadfastly determined to deliver the runs and post some big scores whatever the weather.
At Bradford Recreation Park, one of my favourite grounds, where the palm trees decorate the full playing sphere, I started the season as I meant to go on and even if I didn’t go on as I’d started it was still a good start! My run-a-ball 169 represented more than double last year’s maximum effort of just 79. My teammates as well as some in the media were quick to point out the irony of me, the husband of a French lady, being dismissed by A.French. Oh how we all chuckled at that one! I was controversially adjudged caught behind when on 26 second time around before the match petered out into a draw. Thrilling run chases wouldn’t rise to prominence until the second half of the campaign.
My mid-season form then followed a similar trend of campaigns gone by, with dismissals in the twenties and thirties occurring with alarming regularity. I made 36 and 29 in defeat at Sheffield before falling for 7 and 31 at home to Scarborough. The fall on 31 was at least in part down to an attempt at an admittedly unlikely achievable run chase.
The penultimate match of the season was somewhat of a juxtaposition for me. I contributed scores of 90 (61 balls) and 82 (44 balls), the latter in a partnership of 98 that I clearly dominated. With reckless disregard for the risk to my batting average should I come unstuck, I took the attack to the York bowling… attack! My innings end came about only because of my selfless attempt to win the match for my team and my batting partner’s selfish concern for his own statistics. With five wickets still in hand, I was appalled, disgusted, dismayed, insert appropriate adjective, with the defence minded approach our late middle-order batsmen applied in the final overs. Our number six finished a shameful 8 not out from 33 deliveries when the game finished a draw. Victory was just 38 runs in sight!
My facial expression in the above photograph aptly sums up my thoughts regarding my teammates’ efforts in our draw at home to arch rivals York. I was not a happy chappy!
In the final round of matches, hosting Hull at home would bring about another thrilling run chase, this time one that had a much happier ending. That wasn’t before I suffered the frustration of being run out when well set and playing beautifully in our first innings. I had reached 39 (Those frustrating thirties again!) when I was caught short attempting a third. Such was my angst at my dismissal that I honestly don’t remember whether I was still attempting the third or had turned back. I must also offer further apologies for the smashed window in the changing room. It wasn’t a moment to be proud of and of course I will cover the repair costs and accept my fine without appeal.
From one end of the emotional spectrum to another, it was with rapture unbound that I should be at the crease when we completed a cheeky run chase on the final day of the three-day season and righted the wrongs of York. When I entered the theatre, we needed 64 runs from 18 overs however when it came to the crunch, despite there being four overs left, the clock had already ticked past the close of play. So it was that with just three deliveries remaining and with myself undefeated on 46 from 36 deliveries, my teammate drove the ball to the ropes to seal a stunningly deserved victory on a rocky horror picture show of an end of season pitch. We embraced, the bevvies flowed and another cricket campaign, in this format at least, reached its conclusion.
We (Leeds) finished a respectable second in the Northern Division (err… really, we only won one game?!) and on a personal note, I too finished second in the run charts. 555 runs at 61.67 was a far better effort than recent years. I was only just pipped to the premier post by my teammate and opening batsman who too played his hand in the run chase against Hull with a classy 74 from 75 deliveries. No looking after his batting average, just playing for the team!