This morning, a colleague pointed out that I'd snapped at her for using the word 'autumnal' during August. It could mean only one thing: the end of the season, with all of its unsettling melancholy, has slipped into view. Only a few more games now, and they already feel under siege from football, the X-Factor and other chilling harbingers of winter. This is always the worst time; for some reason once the last game's over it's alright again.
There is one consolation, though. The bat's done a couple of seasons; it's the nets only for the noble Gray-Nicolls from now on, and the sales are coming up. Not really joining the pantheon, that Nicolls, bloody nice bat, but have never really had the connection with it, that indefinable feeling of oneness that you get with your favourites. Found a few of them in a cupboard the other day, some of them decades old: a vintage County, Boycott-inspired probably, that always looked slightly wider than other bats; a beloved Slazenger with cracks in the face as familiar as my palm (pre-the really thick edges, that one, but still not bad on that score); a decent Powerspot gone in the splice; a Puma that enjoyed one outstanding day... always worth keeping your old bats, because they all hold something.
For a club player like me, the new acquisition has to be savoured, anticipated, relished, because they don't come around too often. There's no manufacturer knocking on our dressing room door with a van full of virgin willow, no sponsor keen to re-sticker with next year's look (though if anyone's interested, you know, I'll do you a little blog every now and again; give you an ad...), so the selection process should be long and thoughtful.
Have seen some very nice bats out on the field this season. In our side there are a couple of Gunn & Moore's, an Epic right out of the factory with a ruler straight grain that picks up like a dream, and a handsome Luna; there's a glowing Laver & Wood with a supernatural middle; a Millichamp & Hall with some serious ping. In the various oppos we've faced, every M&H has sounded magnificent, and I'm big on how a bat sounds. Can't cheat on the sound it makes, and those boys have a deep, throaty bark that sounds like no other. Most impressive though have been a couple of old Newbery's. Both have seen better days, which makes them even greater, just generous, lovingly made bats that keep on giving and going. Die in the harness, they will, like a couple of aging shire horses...
The retro brands have a lasting nostalgic pull for me, especially the Scoop and the V12, two bats that have given me lots of runs, but no... can't go back, feels wrong. Can't go back in batting because I'm not that player any more, haven't been for a long time so have to resist. Good prices though, and affectionately done.
This time it feels like it has to be something new, a make I've never owned, something light and understated, not flash but definitely, quietly true, a bat that will bring sorrow in the parting when it comes. That's what I want, and I'll know it when I hold it. Sussex, Somerset and Kent are the places on the shortlist, so you can probably hazard a guess...
Ian Bell – A Kind Of Appreciation
1 week ago