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Vitality Blast Finals Day – Futility rains at Edgbaston as the Longest Weekend begins

Follow drip-by-drip updates as we wait for the clouds to clear at Edgbaston

It is a fair indication that the cricket season has gone on too long when one can buy an Advent calendar on the way to Edgbaston. And, yes, there is an argument that we have only ourselves to blame for the merciless monsoon currently dumping its load on Birmingham. But such an allotment of responsibility seems a cruel way to end what has been a brave season, one in which the phrase “cricket community” actually meant something and in which we found our game was tougher than we suspected. Indeed, it should be noted that 86% of the people who bought tickets for this year’s Finals Day have rolled over their tickets to 2021. All the same…

We awoke to suffocating greyness and as this piece is being written – 12.10am – the sky’s complexion is unchanged. In case you have not noticed there is no prospect of play in the 18th T20 Finals Day and the shrewd cash is already on three bowl-outs in the Indoor School sometime around evensong tomorrow. They should be relayed to the media and people watching on TV via a video-link and aren’t we looking forward to it all. People will pine for T20, “proper cricket” and its gentle revelation of the game’s complexity.

“The toss has been delayed. There will be an inspection at 11.00” said an ECB statement. “Inspection of what?” asked someone, given that the entire square, run-ups and much of the outfield were, and still are, covered. Eventually the absurdity of it all occurred to officials and the inspection was cancelled. “What’s the protocol for a socially distanced mascot race?” asked a colleague, his face as straight as he could manage. It’s a moot point now, as that has been cancelled too. People are making jokes about Bonfire Night.

If we need our sinews stiffening – or merely the hardening of our arteries slowing – it might be provided by the statue of Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, standing resolutely but wearing bloody daft shorts, at the end of Broad Street, near the mighty Five Ways roundabout. “The Auk”, as he was known, was Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army on two occasions and was also C-in-C Middle Eastern Command until he was sacked by Churchill in 1942.

The placement of the statue might suggest Auchinleck was a Brummie, a good son of Sparkbrook or Ladywood, perhaps, although Edgbaston itself would be more likely. In any case the truth is even duller. “The statue of Sir Claude Auchinleck (1884-1981) has returned to Birmingham, after having been sent off on covert operations whilst the Five Ways Shopping Centre was re-developed,” joked the Birmingham Civic Society. “The statue was commissioned and paid for by the Murrayfield Real Estate Company Ltd. Other than being chairman of the company which developed the Five Ways Shopping Centre, Auchinleck has no other link to Birmingham.”

The weather has deteriorated, which suggests that God is really pulling his tripes out. The city centre has disappeared and thick mist clings like an unwelcome lover around nearby streets. The trees in Cannon Hill and Calthorpe Parks are already in their full autumn livery. The various supersoppers rumble across the outfield, although more in an attempt to prevent a marsh being formed than to ready the ground for play.

And so it has begun. So our long weekend has begun. “Ice wind out of a downpour dishclout sunrise” wrote Ted Hughes in his poem, “February 17th”.

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