Tuesday, August 13, 2013


A PAUSE AMONG THE EUPHORIA..

Like most cricket loving Englishmen I was captivated by yesterday`s dramatic Ashes win at Chester-le-Street but during a lull in proceedings, either rain or tea I can`t remember, an interesting conversation took place between three England captains turned pundit about the respective times early in their careers.   They were mentioning the value of learning the trade through playing in club or league cricket - Gower, for instance, spent some time playing for a club in Perth, Western Australia;  Atherton recalled his time in the Lancashire and Cheshire leagues and Botham happened to mention the formative time he spent playing club cricket at Yeovil in Somerset.

Ah, Somerset.   That quite breathtakingly beautiful county, shown above, is the south- western outpost for county cricket in England and the county club has a history that is both chequered and unique.   As soon as Botham mentioned it, however, my mind went back to the days when Somerset cricket seemed to mirror the character of the county itself - beguilingly full of charm, a certain pace of life and a pastoral promise around every corner.

Botham`s reference to Yeovil cricket club sent me to an internet search, whereupon I came across a quite unexpected obituary.   It was for Brian Langford, who had passed away a few short months ago at the age of 77.   He was raised in Bridgwater, made his  county d├ębut as an off spin bowler when only 17 and went on to captain the side, score over 7,000 runs and take more than 1400 wickets, as well as being the only player to have bowled a full complement of eight overs in a 40-over match without conceding a single run.   He was, in short, a genuine legend of Somerset cricket.

But more than that, he seemed to represent an era, a time when Somerset cricket tended to consist of a mixture of landed gentlemen and hardened professionals, playing the game with a unique blend of serious intent and rustic panache and what characters it produced - Harold Gimblett, Horace Hazell, Bertie Buse, Dasher Denning, Colin Dredge the Demon of Frome, Maurice Tremlett, Mervyn Kitchen and a whole host more.   Through the mists of time their memories conjure up visions of sun kissed days in the lea of the Quantocks where the game was played as an entertainment rather than a business, a pleasure rather than a nerve-shredding trial.  Que sera, sera coming to cider land.

And so, as the euphoria of yet another Ashes victory is hailed and recognised for the triumph it is, yesterday`s brief conversation between the three former captains made me pause as it reminded me of another time, another age when heroes came with quiet restraint, decency and modesty and none more so than Brian Langford, who personified the charm and lasting appeal of cricket in that most captivating of counties.

It`s strange how cricket, like no other sport, can encourage wistfulness, even romanticism, which might mask the realities of how life might have been for those faraway heroes, but I was genuinely sorry to learn of Brian Langford`s passing and even more sorry that it has not been more widely acknowledged.  

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