Lancefield stops Essex rout of Surrey in March sunshine

The earliest start to their schedule of pre-season friendlies – in England – saw Essex play Surrey in a two-day game at Chelmsford. The home side gained a first innings lead but the feature of the match was an amazing collapse in the Surrey second innings when five wickets fell with the total on 16 as Maurice Chambers and David Masters ran riot with five wickets in just 15 deliveries.

Tom Lancefield then anchored the innings to save Surrey from a potential ignominious innings defeat, contributing a watchful unbeaten 21 and taking his side to 77 for 6 by the end of the match.

A couple of hundred spectators turned up on both days to watch the action and they were able to bask in the sun for a number of hours – although, as shadows lengthened in the late afternoon, temperatures became decidedly nippy. By close of play, indeed, a handful of hardy spectators were huddled in more traditional winter wear.

Not that anyone was complaining. The opportunity to watch two first-class counties face each other in England in March was too good to miss and one was left wondering how the cricket diehard coped 50 years ago.

Back then, in 1962, the Essex faithful had to wait until May 2 before any action took place and they could watch the likes of Trevor Bailey, Barry Knight and Jim Laker, who had been persuaded to join Essex for a three-year stint before bringing the curtain down on his memorable career.

That season also finished much earlier than now. In 1962, the round of 28 County Championship matches was concluded  on the last day in August after Essex had appeared on a number of grounds now consigned to the memory.

Venues such as Portsmouth, Hinckley, Worthing, Dover, Ebbw Vale and Sheffield were visited while the nomadic Essex team of 1962 also featured in home festivals at Ilford, Romford, Brentwood, Westcliff, Colchester, Clacton and the former headquarters at Leyton. Now, of course, only Colchester remains.

In addition to the Championship programme, Essex also entertained the Pakistan touring side and played first-class friendlies against both Cambridge University and Oxford University.

That all made for 93 days of cricket, clearly more tightly-packed into the playing season, while this year the devotees can potentially experience a maximum of 99 days of Essex first team cricket, including the five days of pre-season action scheduled for March at Chelmsford.

Provided, that is, the sun keeps shining!

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