First cake of the season
April 7, 2017 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Today began the 2017 Cricket County Championship, a tournament dating from between 1825 and 1890. 12 of the 18 counties which constitute the two divisions were in action from 11am, with lunch being taken around 1pm, tea and cake around mid-afternoon, and close of play at roughly 6pm. Matches last up to four days; possible results are win, loss, draw or tie, with bonus points available for various batting and bowling metrics. However, points can be deducted for poor pitches, slow over rates, ball tampering, a breach of salary cap, or poor discipline. This season, sponsored by an opticians, the championship began with controversial points deductions and will end in late September. For twenty of the other counties there is the minor counties championship, and for many spectators there will be cake.

Finance remains a key issue for the counties which make up the championship. Though some are in significant debt, others are reporting recent profits. Cricket clubs are generating significant revenue from non-cricketing events, such as pop concerts (people sitting orderly for an Elton John concert at the Sussex county cricket ground), weddings, fine dining, family or corporate events. Unlike the newer forms of cricket such as T20, county cricket remains largely free of gimmicks with a focus on the important aspects.

Division One
8 teams who logically play each other twice. The top side becomes champion; the bottom two are relegated.

Essex: Founded in 1876, though cricket has been played in the area since the 16th century, with the first detailed mention being a match in 1724 between Chingford and Mr Edwin Stead's XI. Essex now play at Chelmsford; their muffins are particularly excellent. Six times county champions and with the former England captain Alastair Cook in the side before returning to international duty, could be early season contenders. A cricket ball.
Hampshire: Twice previous champions, Hampshire play at the Rose Bowl stadium just outside Southampton. Generally not expected to do well this season in the county championship. Scroll down for a cake.
Lancashire: Bitter rivals to Yorkshire, the eight times champions (plus one shared) play at Old Trafford. A bit of an unpredictable quality, Lancashire could become challengers to the title, or equally likely be relegated due to poor bowling. Here is some village cricket cake.
Middlesex: the reigning county cricket champions after last seasons tournament went down to the wire, this London-based side will start as joint or near favorites. Eleven times champions and with an additional two shared titles, Middlesex play at a cricket ground of some repute and with formidable cake-oriented expertise.
Somerset: Never winners of the championship - though runners-up last year - Somerset are strong contenders for this summer. They play their home matches in Taunton; Mrs Smiths buttered scones are recommended there. Some cupcakes.
Surrey: With Michael Di Venuto as coach, Surrey are predicted to be potential champions. 18 times title holders, with one other championship shared, Surrey play their matches at the Kia Oval, a ground in London. A Millenium Falcon cake consumed last year, and a historical victory cake.
Warwickshire: Local rivals to the more scenic Worcestershire, this team are based in the Edgbaston cricket ground in south central Birmingham. Seven times county champions, the "Bears" may struggle to stay in division one this season, possibly swapping places with the "Pears" come the seasons end. Ashes player and Warwickshire bowler Ashley Giles is regularly spotted cutting cakes.
Yorkshire: Led by Gary Ballance and with retired batsman and occasional run-maker Geoffrey Boycott urging them on, Yorkshire are (as ever) predicted to do well. Yorkshire have won a record 32 championships, with another begrudgingly shared; their chocolate cake is particularly splendid.

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The current bookmaker odds for the county championship: division one and division two.
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Division Two
10 teams who play each other once or twice. Don't ask. The top two sides are promoted.

Derbyshire: Perennial underdogs, Derbyshire have only won the county championship once (1936) and, in a tough-looking division two, are not tipped for promotion this year. Derbyshire also hold the record for finishing bottom of the championship, on 15 occasions. Having said that, the hospitality at their ground in Derby is highly praised. A cake for a cricket supporter.
Durham: Aggrieved by the aforementioned points deduction, the side may struggle to win promotion. Founded in 1882 but only admitted into the county championship in 1992, the side have been champions three times. A particularly splendid ground with excellent tea, Diane Patterson was a recent winner of best cake.
Glamorgan: This is the only county in Wales to play in the championship. Admitted in 1921 and thrice champions, Glamorgan play most of their home matches in Cardiff, but are tipped to make up the numbers in division two this season. Nom.
Gloucestershire: Never officially county champions, and with a founding date of "probably" 1870, Gloucestershire's main cricket ground is in Bristol. Here is a particularly large chocolate cake which Gloucestershire can be proud of.
Kent: Kent County Cricket Club was first founded in 1842 but teams representing the county have played top-class cricket since the early 18th century. They are occasionally referred to by local rivals Sussex as "that new club". Seven times outright (and once shared) champions, Kent play their home matches at Canterbury. From 1847 to 2005, a tree growing on the ground necessitated extra scoring rules. Cricket chocolate fudge cake.
Leicestershire: An East Midlands side, not expected to do well and starting with an automatic handicap of a sixteen point deduction for repeated obscenities. Leicestershire, three times champions, play at Grace Road and are acknowledged to have some of the best cakes on the county circuit.
Nottinghamshire: Playing at the test (international match) ground of Trent Bridge in the city of Nottingham, the six times champions are strongly expected to be promoted back to division one this season. A pinterest page of cricket cakes.
Northamptonshire: Never winners of the county championship (though recent specialists in one day cricket) Northants are not expected to trouble the promotion places in division two this season. Yet more cup cakes.
Sussex: The club was founded in 1839 as a successor to the various Sussex county cricket teams, including the old Brighton Cricket Club, which had been representative of the county of Sussex as a whole since the 1720s. Three times championship winners, Sussex play most of their matches at Hove, near to the sea. Like many other counties, Sussex raise additional revenue through being a wedding venue.
Worcestershire: Despite the addition of a controversial hotel, Worcestershire play at arguably one of the most scenic sport venues in the world. A young side who may place well this season, but as ever this depends on the ground not being flooded. Five times winners, Worcestershire were admitted to the county championship in 1899. A birthday cake.

Further reading on what players eat during matches. Oh, and a reminder that 2017 is an Ashes Year...
posted by Wordshore (25 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This post really takes the cake!
posted by hippybear at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

County cricket reminds me of the historic days when playing so provided street cred for the likes of Tiger Pataudi and other royals - RanjiSinhji for instance. Isn't it where the riff finally get separated from the raff?
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, forgot to mention the cakery
posted by infini at 11:13 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

This will take me days to read. Thank you, Wordshore.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Most of the links are just to pictures, apart from a few long form texts on cricket and food.
posted by Wordshore at 11:44 AM on April 7, 2017

More Texts About Cricket and Food was the second Talking Heads album, I think.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

What about commentators Wordshore? Do they get cake?
posted by biffa at 12:13 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

They certainly do, there’s a long-running tradition of sending cakes to the Test Match Special team (i.e. BBC radio commentary).
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I guess by writing here I'm a commenter, not a commentator. #disappoint
posted by hippybear at 12:25 PM on April 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

They certainly do, there’s a long-running tradition of sending cakes to the Test Match Special team (i.e. BBC radio commentary).

Oh, yes.
posted by Wordshore at 12:30 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Am I reading this right that the point penalty Durham took was equivalent to vacating three wins, or 6 ties or almost 10 draws? In 14 game season?

Im struggling to think of a harsher penalty other than, perhaps, the NCAAs "death penalty" where teams/schools are barred from entire seasons of play.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, that's right. It's the equivalent of the win points for three matches, or for two matches where there's a win and maximum bonus points (5 for batting, 3 for bowling). Either way, as you point out it's only a 14 match season, and it will be hard for them to bounce back and get promoted (remembering that relegation was also part of their punishment for a situation partially of the making of the organisation which punished them).
posted by Wordshore at 12:35 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

County cricket reminds me of the historic days when playing so provided street cred for the likes of Tiger Pataudi and other royals - RanjiSinhji for instance.

That reminds me of my favourite cricket photo of all time: Ranjitsinhji and C.B. Fry.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:42 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

What's the difference between a draw and a tie, now?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:26 PM on April 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

What's the difference between a draw and a tie, now?

A draw is where the game runs out of time, often due to bad weather. This can only happen in versions of the game with unlimited overs, and is usually viewed as a dull disappointment of a result, but can sometimes be very exciting.

A tie is where both teams complete their second innings with exactly the same number of runs. This is extremely rare - bear in mind that the total number of runs scored in a 4-5 day match is typically over a thousand. In test matches, this has only ever happened twice, both times involving Australia.
posted by Urtylug at 1:38 PM on April 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Wordshore, you are my favourite. Thank you for this, thank you, thank you.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

What's the difference between a draw and a tie, now?

To expand a bit on what Urtylug said, in unlimited overs cricket (which is, at the professional level, usually known as 'first-class cricket') you can only win by bowling the other side out in all of its batting innings (each side has, in the professional game, two innings batting and two innings bowling). Professional unlimited overs cricket is limited not by overs (groups of six valid balls bowled), but by time - a set number of days. So if you run out of time on the last day of a match, and your opponent is behind, but you haven't bowled them out, you still don't win.

The reason that this is interesting is that it forces captains to balance the need to set a high run total against the need to have enough time to bowl the other team out. You can't just rely on superior batting to put up an unbeatable score, you have to also have bowlers who can bowl out the other side, and give them a chance to do so.

The most exciting games are sometimes those where overmatched batsmen from lower down the batting order end up paired with a stronger batsman from higher up the order (because other strong batsmen have already been bowled out). The tension between winning and "saving the draw" can be very apparent for both sides in this sort of situation, with lots of micro-drama as the stronger batsman works both to protect the weaker batsman, and to keep pressure on the other team by scoring enough runs to keep the prospect of a win alive (which, indirectly, protects the draw by making setting very aggressive fielding positions dangerous, and thereby increasing the chances of the batsmen getting to the end of the march without being bowled out).

Cricket is a very good way of illustrating how binary oppositions exist in, define and are simultaneously defined by their context. Using cricket as an analogy is, to my mind, the best way of explaining the concept of 'overdetermination' in Althusser's work. But on Metafilter, I think that using Althusser to explain cricket might actually be more convenient...
posted by howfar at 3:38 PM on April 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

You have made my day, it's been a long winter.

Was in the stands for the last day of Middx V Yorks, an unbelievably exciting day's play in a sport that i specifically follow for its lack of excitement. Friends are amazed when i tell them that yes, a match really is four days, and no, there isn't usually a result. And that a typical attendance in the cavernous stands at Lord's really is a few hundred. And yes, I book time off work as soon as the schedule is published.

But stranger still, we (Middx) actually won something.
posted by welovelife at 4:20 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone who's read all the Mike and Psmith novels but still has absolutely no idea how cricket works, where could I watch the current goings-on? (A Brit internet friend of mine is currently watching the IPL, also, and I'm sure he'd appreciate someone to "did you see that ludicrous display last night?" with.)
posted by tobascodagama at 5:44 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

What a smashing post! Many thanks Wordshore. As an exiled Yorkshireman I'm going to have a nice evening.
posted by anadem at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tobascodagama, regrettably county cricket is yet to make it to our screens, despite the Slow TV trend. But if you want to follow it, keep an eye on the BBC radio live event streams, typically Middx will tweet on the day which stream is carrying the commentary- and the BBC London team are always good company! They're also quite good at explaining- despite being in my 5th year of membership I still don't understand the majority of cricket.
posted by welovelife at 12:07 PM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

The IPL rights are with ESPN in the US. Online streaming is paid, of course. I dare say that there may be, ahem, other alternatives if you were to go looking for them, depending on your position on the ethics of notionally depriving the most profitable cricket competition in the world of a small proportion of your subscription fee. I think you'd be morally justified in finding a free stream of a few matches, to see whether you're interested, before coughing up the money. Better yet, if you know of a pub or bar with a substantial Indian clientele, they might have a licence for public viewing. The only problem is that IPL matches take place in the evening, so, given that it looks like you're on Eastern time, they're usually going to be early morning for you. But if there is somewhere local to you that shows it, they might well have it on a delayed broadcast later in the day.

It's worth noting that the IPL is a Twenty20 tournament, which is a very different game to first-class cricket. If county cricket matches are complex pitched battles, and a Test series a bitter fought war, Twenty20 is a punch-up in a pub carpark. It's fast, aggressive and often very compelling, but no-one would ever accuse it of being subtle. It's actually an excellent way to start getting into cricket. While I think that cricket, in all its forms, is a good spectator sport, there can be long lulls in longer versions of the game, which aren't necessarily very engaging unless you're already invested in a team etc.
posted by howfar at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not to rain on this interesting post, but if you tried a word association with cricket and.... [ ], I don't think a lot of people would ever get around to saying cake. It's not something that really features. Well, in Australian club cricket at least.
posted by wilful at 6:31 AM on April 9, 2017

May I respectfully suggest then, that you are doing cricket wrong in Australia.
posted by Helga-woo at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

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