Call for national anthem at Tests

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The surge of patriotic pride swelling the nation's collective breast in the wake of England's first Test defeat of Australia is driving cricket towards adopting a sporting ritual its traditions have curiously neglected - the national anthem.

Unlike football and rugby, in which no international contest gets under way until the players have joined in an uplifting appeal for the continuing prosperity of the monarch, cricket is a game without fanfares. Even the grandest occasion at Lord's is heralded by nothing more remarkable than the emergence from the pavilion of two men in white coats.

Flushed with their early-season triumphs, however, England's cricketers now want to make a proper entrance, including the chance to puff out their chests and sing "God Save The Queen".

"It happens with every other sport and at the Olympics," Alec Stewart, a senior England player, said. "I'm very patriotic and it would be a proud moment."

The problem perplexing the game's administrators, however, is not whether it should happen but when. "At football and rugby, spectators tend to be in their seats some time before the game," the ECB spokesman, Richard Little, said. "But I saw South Africa play Australia in Port Elizabeth recently and when they played the anthems there was hardly anyone in the ground. But if you have everyone on the field just before the beginning you risk upsetting the players' preparations, particularly the two who are about to bat."

Anthems were played at the last World Cup and now precede Test matches in the Caribbean but there is no history of the practice in English cricket.