Old school bowled out by Illingworth

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JOHN MAJOR'S favourite sport took a significant step towards the classless society yesterday.

After years of failure under the 'old school tie' regime, England's cricket team was entrusted to a man who was not even wearing one for the announcement at Lord's.

Ray Illingworth (Wesley Street Secondary Modern, Farsley, Yorks), was a surprise choice of the Test and County Cricket Board to be England's new Chairman of Selectors. He defeated M J K Smith (Stanford School, Oxford University) in a narrow vote of the county chairmen. In appointing Illingworth, who wore a cream golf sweater for the announcement amid a phalanx of suits, English cricket has followed football in picking a 'people's choice'.

While football's selection of Dagenham's Terry Venables is no great departure from tradition, Bradford- born Illingworth follows Ted Dexter (Cambridge) and Peter May (Cambridge) into England's senior cricket post.

His broad and blunt Yorkshire accent has been heard regularly on BBC television since he retired from first- class cricket at the age of 51, ten years ago. Although regarded as the shrewdest judge of players in the game, he has been largely ignored by the national side since he refused the manager's job in 1987 because he felt restrictions reduced the job to that of a baggage man.

This time he demanded, and has been given, power to go with the responsibility. Although he will consult the manager, Keith Fletcher, captain Mike Atherton and two other selectors, he will have the final say.

Both Illingworth and Smith began playing in 1951, the former as a professional, the latter as an amateur, in the days of separate dressing rooms. Both led England with distinction, though Illingworth's high point - the first series win in Australia in four decades - was marked by several controversial moments including his leading the team off the field in one Test after the fast bowler John Snow had been assaulted by a drunken spectator.

Another appointment announced yesterday was that of Dennis Silk as chairman of the TCCB.

Silk, the current MCC President, is a classic es

tablishment figure - so it will be ties as usual in the boardroom.

England's dictator, page 42