The date March 19 has a special place in military history as it was on this day in 1982 that Argentinian troops landed on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia, precipitating the start of the Falklands conflict with Britain. Similarly, March 19 2003 was the date when American president George W Bush ordered the start of the war with Iraq.
As far as cricket historians are concerned, March 19 will have an extra meaning from 2012 onwards because it will be on this date – at Taunton – that the earliest-ever competitive match on record involving county sides will be taking place with Somerset meeting Glamorgan in a two-day friendly.
This match at Taunton is just one of a host of pre-season games (warm-up matches might not be the most appropriate phrase) during late March ahead of a first-class season which will make its earliest start in 2012 with the opening batch of games beginning on Saturday March 31 with a series of matches involving the MCC Universities teams against county opposition.
As far as the LV=County Championship is concerned, the first batch of matches will commence on Thursday April 5, surpassing the previous earliest starting date of April 8 set last summer. Given the phenomena of global warming and the small rise in global temperatures, this might be enlightened thinking by the ECB to bring forward the start of the English cricket season and also to stage friendly games in March.
Only time will tell whether the weather gods will be kind to the Somerset and Glamorgan players on March 19, but I’m sure both sides will be taking plenty of clothing with them, as well as lots of hand warmers, as they become the participants in the earliest-ever county game in the UK.
Meanwhile, the topsy-turvy season of 2011-12 continues. Our winter months have already seen Australia slide to 21 for 9 in a Test match, Sri Lanka dismissed in an ODI for 43, and a 41-year-old spinner (Australia’s Brad Hogg in case you were wondering – albeit in Twenty20 mode) recalled to the international arena, has now witnessed a team winning a Test after being dismissed in their first innings for less than 100.
This latest statistical oddity follows Pakistan’s achievement in winning the Third Test of their recent series with England in Dubai, after being dismissed for 99 in their first innings. It was also the first time since 1907 that a side had won a Test after failing to make a hundred, with Pakistan emulating England’s achievements three-quarters of a century ago when they defeated South Africa after making 76 batting first.
These feats duly prompted statisticians to consult lists of lowest first innings totals in games where a side have been dismissed cheaply before subsequently going on to win the game. In recent times, this unusual feat was achieved by Derbyshire who beat Gloucestershire at Bristol in August 2010 despite having been dismissed for just 44 in their first innings.
Chesney Hughes’ knock of 96 batting second time around, followed by a four-wicket haul from the waspish seamer Tim Groenewald, subsequently helped the Peakites to a 54-run victory inside two days in one of the most bizarre County Championship encounters of recent times.
The Roses Match at Headingley in June 1924 was another remarkable encounter when a side won after a series of low totals. On this occasion, Yorkshire were set 58 to defeat Lancashire but they were bustled out for just 33.
The game had begun with the Red Rose county making 113 after electing to bat first on the Leeds wicket. The home side then responded with 130 with Edgar Oldroyd making 37 – the top-score in this unusual game, before Lancashire were dismissed in their second innings for 74 and then Yorkshire were bowled out for 33 with spinner Dick Tyldesley claiming 6 for 18.
Yorkshire’s target of 58 remains the lowest a side has failed to chase in a Championship match but, after the events of the past few months, one wonders what lies in store for the 2012 season!