Wis­den Crick­eters’ Al­manack 2017

Country Life Every Week - - Books - Edited by Lawrence Booth (Wis­den, £50)

THIS year’s al­manack comes af­ter a dispir­it­ing win­ter’s cricket. In Chen­nai, Eng­land con­ceded their high­est to­tal in their 983-Test history and long-stand­ing skip­per Alas­tair Cook re­signed af­ter Eng­land lost five of their seven win­ter Test matches.

Lawrence Booth be­lieves Cook ‘chose the right time to go’ and lacked ‘the tac­ti­cal acu­men to in­flu­ence a game on its own. That his team lost only four of his 17 se­ries in charge was tes­ta­ment to a very English grit: un­der­stated, oc­ca­sion­ally self-con­scious, al­ways bloody-minded. It proved an ex­haust­ing com­bi­na­tion’.

The county sea­son had ended on a high, with a dra­matic fi­nal­day win by Mid­dle­sex against York­shire in a grip­ping win­ner­takes-the-ti­tle con­test. The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) then soured this heady brew 10 days later with a shock an­nounce­ment that debt-rid­den Durham were to be rel­e­gated from the first di­vi­sion as part of a pun­ish­ment for hav­ing re­ceived a loan from them. This de­ci­sion was said to have been made well be­fore the sea­son’s end, per­haps even as early as May.

Durham, in many respects a highly laud­able county, are far from alone among the coun­ties in be­ing deep in debt, but other fi­nan­cially par­lous clubs have steered clear of the ECB and its huge cash re­serves and have been treated gen­er­ously with loans from bene­fac­tors or lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. The ECB is rightly con­demned as ‘dra­co­nian’ and ‘if Durham go straight back up in 2017, few pro­mo­tions will have been cheered more loudly’.

The Wis­den Schools Crick­eter of the Year is A. J. Wood­land, St Ed­ward’s School, Ox­ford’s left­handed open­ing bats­man. Rod­er­ick Eas­dale

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