Home of cricket goes for a quick century

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST cricket match of the new millennium is set to be played in Hambledon, Hampshire, where the game came to maturity a century-and- a-half ago.

In the face of stiff competition from Australia and New Zealand, where the millennium arrives some hours earlier, the men of Hambledon have devised an ingenious plan to get themselves into the record books.

The rules state that the umpire can abandon a game if the light fails. So the plan is to illuminate the pitch with car headlamps, bowl one ball on the stroke of midnight, and then declare "bad light stops play".

It has already been decided that Dick Orders, landlord of the Bat and Ball pub opposite the ground, will bowl to Andy Smith, one of the village team's leading batsmen.

"I shall deliver one ball, no more," said Mr Orders. "Then the car lights will be turned off and the batsmen will appeal against the light. The umpires should have no hesitation in agreeing and we shall repair to the pub to talk about the game. We shall resume play at midday."

As the millennium arrives the present Hambledon side will take the field against a team raised by Adrian Aymes, the Hampshire wicket-keeper, who is having a benefit year in 2000.

Aymes is desperately hoping that nobody in the southern hemisphere gets in first. "This is a legendary place in the game," he said. "I want this to be a record going into the next century which will ensure its reputation continues."

The cricket historian, Desmond Eagar, said of Hambledon, "Here cricket grew to man's estate," and next Saturday morning it will grow a little further.