I got a shock last Saturday.
No it wasn't because of my first fifty of the season but the discovery that the cricket diary I first started in 1991 was full.
I've loyally filled it in after each game with the result and my personal performance.
It's packed full of yellowing newspaper cuttings, photos of some of the grounds I've played at, scorecards, team pictures, If The Cap Fits columns, statistics and a lifetime of memories.
388 games, 9,941 runs over 20 years at a batting average of 28.08, three hundreds and 52 fifties. These are the bare statistics but cricket is about much more than numbers.
When I started keeping my diary it was just a few months after Margaret Thatcher's exit as PM, Gazza's tears at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the end of the Gulf War.
The world didn't know about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Katie Middleton and, thankfully, Jordan or Simon Cowell.
From a personal point of view when I made my first entry on May 11,
1991, following a win at Gillingham (I hit a match-winning 12 not out) I was 19, single, at journalism college and paying £50 quid a week for digs that were so small I could stretch my arms and touch both walls.
Flicking through my diary was like a walk down memory lane.
In the PMM years of 1991-94 (that's Pre Mrs M) I played 179 games and scored 1,000 runs three seasons running.
Even the dates when I didn't play had significance. I missed Taunton St Andrews away on June 24, 2000 so I could attend the birth of my first daughter Megan.
I was captain of Downend 2nds at the time and Mrs M and I agreed that if she had the baby after Thursday afternoon I'd drop out of playing. She arrived at 8.17am on Saturday after a 40 hour labour and if I'd mentioned cricket at that stage there may not have been a second child!
I missed White Coppice's home game with Great Eccleston 2nds on June 19, 2010, to see my 99-year-old nan in hospital after she broke her hip.
It was the last time I saw her before she died and although my achievements in cricket are modest I'd give them up to see my nan again.
Every entry in the diary represents a a lesson in life. On August 31, 1991, I raced to 21 vs Bretts when I pulled their opening bowler for six to midwicket. Their captain followed the ball with his field placements so made a dramatic point of moving square leg to exactly where I'd cleared the ropes. "Only an idiot would attempt the same shot again," I mused loudly. Unfortunately in cricket you can't always stop yourself and I fell into the trap the very next ball. What a tool.
Thankfully there were enough good moments in the diary to keep me going. On September 12, 1992, I faced Kent League side Dover. Australian legend Justin Langer pro'ed for Dover (albeit not in that game) and I hit 83 including five fours in an over - all to midwicket.
I look at 20-year-olds today and get frustrated when they don't fulfil their true potential - probably because I didn't myself but it wasn't through a lack of trying.
On May 9, 1993, I played Tenterden on my 21st birthday. I remember little about the game but wrote: "Called in at last minute. Got 22. Caught short fine leg to give catcher first ever victim. Stuart Smith dislocated his finger." I wonder if I merited a mention in their diaries?
My battered blue book is full of such entries. I've played against batsmen with one eye and umpires with one arm.
I've played against Marcus Trescothick's dad Martyn, Ian Botham's son Liam, Alan Knott's son James, Gary Kirsten's brother Peter and Basil D'Oliveira's son Sean (I got him out in a game against Worcester Norton Taverners on August 11, 1993).
They had a famous name but on the cricket field they were just equals. That's the democracy of cricket. There are no barriers.
Looking back at my diary I was struck by the number of times I wrote 'got a shocking LBW decision'. The passing of time has done nothing to heal the pain I feel at seeing the umpire's finger go up.
The worst one was Carnforth 2nds away for Chorley 2nds on July 8, 2006. I printed that scorecard out and I was one of five of the top seven to be given out leg before.
Six years have elapsed since then and I still don't understand how the bowler Ben Hornby had the audacity to even appeal.
Of course that's cricket. "Have a look in the scorebook," is the stock phrase to utter to any batsman who feels unlucky and it's been used more than once in my life.
My last entry into my cricket diary 1991-2011 saw me given out caught behind for a duck against Great Eccleston 2nds and I never touched it but it's still out in the scorebook and the scorebook never lies.
My life has changed beyond all recognition from the first entry in my cricket diary. When it started I was a 19-year-old journalism student but when it ended I was an editor.
I've gone from only worrying about myself to being a married dad-of-two with a mortgage.
One former team-mate - Major Alexis Roberts - died a hero in Afghanistan - while others died of cancer as heroes in their own way.
I've played in the Northern League and Bradford League - helping prevent Blackpool winning the 2008 NL title with an innings of 2 not out off 22 balls for Chorley 1sts on the last day of the season.
Contrast that with the game at Headley Printers on May 25, 1991, where the popping crease was made with the same machine that marked the line of the adjoining football pitch. It was 6 inches wide!
It's been an incredible journey and one that I wouldn't change for the world.
The feeling of joy at a win or a fifty and the despair of a loss or a poor score have stayed the same over the last 20 years.
I've closed the book on one chapter of my life with the end of my first diary but begun another with the beginning of my second diary. Let the good times roll.
You can follow Chris Maguire on Twitter at @ifthecapRead more...
I think the year was 1989 and I was selected to play for my club team Sandwich against a young Kent Colts XI.
It was a red hot day, there was a decent crowd on and I walked out at No 8 to pit my wits against Kent’s most talented young cricketers.
I faced up to a left arm spinner Matthew Brimson. I know it was him because he went on to represent Kent and Leicestershire but will always be remembered for a prank in which he revealed more of his body than he should have in an official team photo that ended up being published in Wisden!!
My first delivery from him pitched on middle and leg and I went to pull it but was so late on the shot it looked like a late cut for three to third man.
There was big gasp from the wicketkeeper Graham Kersey. I know it was him because he went on to play for Kent and Surrey before tragically dying in a car crash in Queensland in 1997 at the age of 25.
The ball was chased down by a stocky first slip called Matthew Walker. I know it was him because he went on to represent Kent and Essex.
I ended up with a little 9 not out that day and nobody who played will remember it or me.
Fast forward 22 years and I popped down to Leyland’s Worden Park last Sunday for a walk with Mrs M and our two girls.
It was an inspired decision because Leyland were hosting a Lancashire Academy Cricket Board team at the adjoining Fox Lane so I nipped across to see the supposed cream of the county’s young cricketers.
The Academy team was admitted into Division One of the Northern League in 2010 and play all their games away.
The idea behind their admittance into the Northern League is to be applauded. There’s no substitute for competitive cricket and the Northern League is a tough environment.
By definition they won’t be the finished article yet but they have to contribute to the quality of the Northern League because they can influence who wins the title – and their performance against Leyland was absolutely woeful.
The biggest weakness of the Academy system is the inconsistency of selection. Only three players turned out for both their opening two fixtures of the 2012 season against Blackpool and Leyland respectively.
In their opening 2010 season they picked nearly 60 players. There’s not a lot they can do if the Minor Counties come calling for their best players but there’s no excuse for a poor attitude.
I don’t know what selectorial discussions took place but why wasn’t Chorley’s Will Moulton playing? New Longton spinner Tayyab Afsar knows the Fox Lane conditions well and would have had a point to prove against his former team-mates if he'd been picked.
It rained a lot last Sunday and the body language of the Academy lads looked like they would rather have been anywhere else other than a soggy Fox Lane.
If Leyland’s batsmen could get 229-7 off their 47 overs it clearly wasn’t a bad wicket but the Colts batsmen showed neither the technique or application, especially against veteran David Makinson.
Makinson picked up 5-6 off 8.1 overs and didn’t need to get out of first gear.
Former Garstang batsmen Mark Walling played a lone hand with 42 but 84 all out and a 145-run defeat was a shameful performance.
Cricket is about character. Anyone can get 50 when the sun is out and the wicket is hard and flat but the best players do it on a cold day in April on a sticky dog of a wicket.
Lancashire won the County Championship for the first time in 77 years in 2011 and judging by the anemic performance of the Colts on Sunday it could be another long wait for their next title.
· Saturday’s game between White Coppice and Vernon Carus 2nds in Division One of the Palace Shield summed up why we love the game of cricket.
Nearly 400 runs scored, a force 10 wind, lots of banter, some good young players and all played in the right spirit.
The game was significant because it was my last as a 30 something cricketer. I’m on the cusp of turning 40 and it was nice to chip in with a knock of 54.
Perhaps I’ll get a game for the Lancashire Academy Cricket Board!!!! I might lack the talent needed but I don’t lack the passion.Read more...
The first day of any new cricket season is a bit like a blind date.
There is a frisson of excitement, your clothes are clean but, ultimately, you have modest expectations and you put yourself through it in the hope that better times are ahead.
As venues go for blind dates then Eccleston Cricket Club wouldn’t be my first choice but that was White Coppice’s opening Palace Shield destination of the 2012 season.
Eccleston’s ground is huge and exposed to the elements so on Saturday it resembled Everest Base Camp. It was freezing.
To protect myself against the elements I decided to wear the Skins that my old mate Dave Swanton had sent me.
Swanny (@SwannyMediaMan) works at Sale Sharks and does all the PR for 2003 Rugby World winner Jason Robinson.
A pair of figure-hugging skins probably look good on a sportsman like Robinson but on a well covered near 40-year-old like me, I think even the world's best PR would struggle to sell the image.
They suck everything is so I felt like a slab of air-packed cheese. The body skin was red in colour and the bottom half was black so I looked like a lollypop.
Talking of body beautifuls, White Coppice welcomed back prodigal son Chris Brindle, whose been doing missionary work at Withnell Fold CC.
I love statistics. In the IPL this year there have been more sixes hit then fours because of the postage stamp-sized grounds.
The top statistic on Saturday was that the first boundary was scored in the 26th over, owing to the fact the wicket resembled a strip of Plasticine, the boundary was monstrously long and Eccleston opened the batting with Iain Bradley.
Bradley’s like the annoying nephew who has never grown up but you’d rather have him in your team than playing against you.
According to his profile on Eccleston CC’s website his nicknames include “Brads” and “Nose” and when asked which Palace Shield player he’d least like to have a drink with he replied: “I’m a very friendly person and like all opponents except …”
His batting is as pleasing on the eye as Ann Widdicombe. He takes the view that he’s paid for all his bat so he’ll use it all – especially the edges.
He clubbed his way to a match-winning 50, bringing up his half century with the first boundary and perishing the next ball trying to repeat the shot – proving the theory that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Bradley was equally effective with the ball. If Michael Holding was the ‘Whispering Death’ then Bradley is the ‘Soporific Strangler’.
He doesn’t have any pace on the ball but bowls this nagging line and length and let's the pudding wicket do the work.
I walked out to bat at No 4 and after hitting a couple of twos I faced up to Bradley.
At this moment it’s worth mentioning the backdrop to which Saturday’s game was played.
Two years ago the corresponding fixture between Eccleston and White Coppice was a tetchy affair after a mix-up meant myself and captain Steve Cooke found ourselves at the same end of the pitch with the ball in bowler Eddie Deane’s hand.
For whatever reason he made me walk the full 22 yards before smashing the stumps to run me out and to utter the immortal line “put that in your column”.
Eccleston lost their heads that day and ultimately got relegated but Saturday’s atmosphere was much better, with the only mention of what went on before coming from Bradley after he got me out.
I decided to be positive so advanced down the wicket and the ball hit my front pad and dribbled to fine leg. Bradley appealed on his own and the umpire agreed.
“Put that in your column,” he barked. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age but there’s no point in responding when you’ve lost the battle so I walked off in silence.
Good luck to Eccleston, who deserved their win. They were well led and Spencer Bibby hit an excellent 49. Bradley had his day in the overcast conditions but if Saturday had been a blind date I don't think there would be a second.
* The great thing about sport is there is always someone worse off than you - step forward St Annes 2nd teamer Matthew Taaffe.
The new Palace Shield season doesn't actually start until Saturday but I have already received plenty of good natured abuse via @ifthecap.
That's the joy of Twitter. Opponents who you normally only lock horns with once or twice a season can now abuse you by social media. I love the banter.
Freckleton's @jameswhitehead2 is a prolific tweeter - if only the same could be said about his batting. #nofiftiesin2011
One of my favourite Twitter friends is his team-mate Josh Holden @jh81190. When God gave out confidence and hand-held mirrors, Freckleton's all-rounder was at the front of the queue.
"On the road to becoming a big timer," screams his understated Twitter profile. "Will try and tweet back all my fans if I can."
With 57 followers Josh it shouldn't take you long son. The funniest thing is the fact he feels the need to call his Twitter address OFFICIAL ACCOUNT. Like somebody else would be sad enough to pretend they're Joshua Holden. #deluded
On a serious note, I enjoy the humour. Some people are easier to wind up than others. Step forward former @LeylandCC legend Tayyab Afsar. For those of you who want a bit of monosylabbic banter about what time someone gets up in the morning then type in @T_Dreamer20.
Tayyab - whose nickname is Teabag - has made a big money move to the @pscricket (Official Palace Shield Twitter) with New Longton. #boughtforabrew
I’m not saying Teabag is easy to wind up but I’ve seen watches put up more resistance. #No11
I popped down to his old club on Saturday for their @NorthernLeague opener against Barrow and word of his departure had leaked out because Fox Lane was surprisingly full.
Another team to start their season on Saturday was @ChorleyCC. Chorley stole a march on their rivals when it came to the value of social media ages ago and now have more than 1,000 followers.
Most of the players are on Twitter and there was no shortage of talk ahead of their games against Fleetwood on Saturday. On Friday night opening bowler Kieran McCullagh posted the message: “I'm genuinely going to struggle to sleep tonight, too excited for tomorrow.” You need to get out a bit more Kieran. #noball
However his enthusiasm was nothing compared to that of Chorley’s prodigal son Matt Dalton @MattDollylfc5. On Friday night he tweeted: “Just put my ChorleyCC kit on for tomorrow. Can't wait for the first game back!”
I love the enthusiasm but I suggested that if he was going to bed in his Chorley kit he’d be spending another night on his own.
“(Of) course I slept on my own” replied Dolly. “It's the night before a game! As for tonight...might be a different story.” #WhatwouldyournansayDolly?
Well the last time I laughed that loudly was when Tayyab Afsar walked out to bat at number three! #reversedtheorder
So how did Chorley CC’s pumped up players get on? The 1st XI got bowled out for 58 and the 2nds lost by 54 runs. @notreadthescript.
I should point out that Chorley CC are a terrific club and 1st XI skipper Andy Holdsworth @andyhccc86 has galvanised everyone but he knows his players will need to do their talking on the pitch.
As for me I’m looking forward to another enjoyable season with White Coppice CC. Judging by our nets, the batsmen won’t be changing their gung-ho approach.
Matt Garstang threatened to do his own shirt-ripping impression of tennis star Novak Djokovic. The Serbian tore his shirt off after winning this year’s Australian Open but Garstang’s ample girth was responsible for leaving his left his shirt feeling in mortal peril.
For those who don’t know Garstang he’s been dismissed LBW 7,567 times in his career and reckons none of them have been out. If the Palace Shield introduce the DRS system he’d used it on the same ball! #missingleg
It just remains for me to wish everyone (including Leyland's Sifton Prince) a good season. Take the cricket seriously but not yourself. It’s only a game. #lol
You can follow Chris Maguire @ifthecapRead more...
A winter of dedication of watching England was finally rewarded on Saturday when Andrew Strauss’ team finally chalked up their first Test victory after four successive defeats.
Their eight-wicket win against Sri Lanka secured England’s status as the world’s No 1 Test team – which is a bit laughable given their anaemic batting displays all winter.
With the series locked at 1-1 apiece it was crying out for a deciding match – so which numpty decreed this should have been only a two-Test series played in 50C heat?
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Earlier this winter Australia took part in two-Test series at home to New Zealand and away in South Africa – both of which were delicately poised at 1-1 when short-changed cricket fans were denied a third match.
Regular readers of this column (and you both know who you are) will be aware of my views on the slap and tickle of the IPL but there’s an interesting point to make.
My big concern about 20/20 has always been that it would become the tail that wags the dog and that’s exactly what has happened.
Our cricketing schedules are being manipulated in favour of the IPL and a drop in the standard of Test cricket is the prize the authorities are prepared to pay.
If you don’t believe me then consider the facts by looking at the schedule the powerbrokers of world cricket – India – have been asked to play in the last 12 months.
It started last April with a tour of the West Indies and three Tests, five One Day Internationals (ODIs) and one 20/20.
Then Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men headed to a four-Test tour of England (which they lost 4-0), another five ODIs and a 20/20 slog for good measure.
England returned the favour by heading to India for a series of five ODIs (anyone remember them?) before hosting a three-Test series with the West Indies and another five pointless (but lucrative) ODIs.
An ill-fated four-match tour of Australia followed (and another 4-0 hammering) before they played eight games in a one-day Tri Series with the hosts and Sri Lanka (in which they finished bottom).
Then they joined Bangladesh; Sri Lanka; and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, memorable only for Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international hundred.
And the absurdity of it came in the form of a trip to South Africa for a banal 20/20 match against the Boks. Assuming I’ve not missed anything that’s 14 Test matches; 31 ODIs; and three 20/20s.
It’s a ridiculous schedule. Now these same players are plying their trade in the cash-drunk IPL. If that wasn’t bad enough five West Indians – Chris Gayle; Dwayne Bravo; Kieron Pollard; Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels – made themselves unavailable for their country’s three Test-series with Australia in favour of the IPL.
It’s a sad indictment on the game and the priorities of today’s players – and it will only get worse. And let’s have a look at the quality of this year’s IPL. The standard has been diluted by players either well past their sell-by date or not good enough for their own countries.
Sourav Ganguly last played international cricket for India in 2008 but he’s the captain of the Pune Warriors. Australian legend Adam Gilchrist quit international cricket four years but he’s now 40 and is playing for Kings XI Punjab.
And the IPL isn’t only full of once great Test players enjoying a last hurrah. Australia’s former No 3 Shaun Marsh scored 17 runs in the recent four-Test series against India (at an average of 2.75) but was still picked up a contract with the Kings XI Punjab. Hardly box office.
Don’t be under any illusion. The IPL may be brimming over with razzle dazzle but it’s painfully short of quality. It’s a poor imitation of the Packer Series that revolutionised the world of cricket between 1977 and 1979.
So we’ll never know who would have won the deciding Test between England and Sri Lanka because of a pointless 20/20 series that puts profits before the purity of cricket.
I blame the administrators in the same way I blame them for not introducing Hot Spot and Snicko technology for all Test matches but that, as they say, is another story.
* You can follow Chris Maguire on Twitter at @ifthecap