Cricket: ...And here are the headlines for 1999

Independent writers play the prediction game

THE 1999 season will be the last before a two-divisional Championship attempts to take English cricket into the new millennium. The World Cup, cricket's prestigious four-yearly competition will also be held, albeit in May, when English pitches are at their most xenophobic.

After the World Cup, New Zealand tour here, while, later in the year, England travel to South Africa for a five-Test series.

Predicting what might happen, particularly where England are concerned, is always a hazardous business, but here goes.

Alec Stewart sees the millennium out as England captain. Michael Atherton is dropped from the team, then comes back to open the batting against Allan Donald for the Johannesburg Test. Selectors cite "horses for courses" as the reason for his comeback.

England's run in the World Cup is ended by South Africa, who lose to Australia in the final. Kenya manage to beat two Test-playing countries in the opening rounds.

Lord MacLaurin opens the first supermarket on a ground formerly used for first-class cricket. Meanwhile, Bryan Young, New Zealand's opening batsman, ensures the first over of the summer's Test series is a maiden.

Leicestershire win their third Championship in four years. In the headlong rush to finish in the top division, 12 counties are docked 25 points each for sub-standard pitches. Harry Brind, the England and Wales Cricket Board's pitch inspector, learns to pilot his own helicopter, such is his workload.

In a bid to make lady members feel at home, the MCC brings in a bulk consignment of pink toilet paper. Unfortunately, no loos have been built to accommodate it, and the surplus is used by groundstaff to mop up the ground after the hover-cover runs amok down St John's Wood High Street.

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