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Restless fretting about cricket’s health could be its great strength | The Spin

A morbid obsession with its own death has caused cricket to adapt and evolve – and is perhaps the reason why we’re still playing and watching it all these years later

Summer came late in 1906, and the spring, harried by a keen north-east wind, hardly stopped at all. May was cold and grey, frosty till the third Sunday. It was dismal weather for cricket. The season started on Wednesday the second, but no one came to watch. Lord’s was empty. The Oval was empty. Old Trafford was empty. The press began to fret. On 27 May the Observer published a leader called The Necessity for Cricket Reform. It asked if the game had outlived its popularity. “Matches are being finished, but the crowds do not come,” the editorial read. “Cricket seems to have grown too old fashioned for these go-ahead times.”

The Observer wasn’t the only one worrying. Next year’s Wisden recalled “all sorts of gloomy forebodings”. Until “the sun came out and all was well”. By the far side of the summer, England was in the middle of a long, late heatwave. George Hirst did the double-double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets, but Yorkshire were still pipped by Kent, who won 11 championship matches in a row, thanks in part to their brilliant young all-rounder Frank Woolley. It was one of the great seasons of the Golden Age, and when it was over, “no more was heard as to cricket being on the wane”.

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