Cricket: Australian Diary - Tradition clearly the best way to settle a score

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One of the pleasures of being in Adelaide, though it is only one of many, is the high quality of the scoreboard at the Oval. It is old- fashioned, singular, clear and makes the hi-tech, new-fangled objects at Sydney and Melbourne seem like disturbing inventions from the realms of scientific fiction.

Perhaps that is being unkind to Melbourne, whose electronic, digital board is at least legible most of the time. It also often, but not always, delivers the necessary information, though not regularly in the order you might expect. Sydney's is a disaster and it is as clear a case for shooting the messenger as there can have ever been. It messes about telling spectators how many runs each batsman has and who is bowling. If, that is, you can read the figures and letters. They are a testament to the shortcomings of digital equipment.

But what it omits most grievously, or may as well considering the tiny amount of space it gives you at the bottom of the screen, is the runs total of the side batting. Both Melbourne and Sydney have another defect. Look at the scoreboard and you then have trouble adjusting your eyes to follow the game.

Adelaide is different. Adelaide has a wooden board, which could almost be a model for boards everywhere. On the left it has large spaces for totals, in the middle long columns for the names of the bowlers and batsmen who have performed in the present innings with space alongside for their figures. On the far right is the fall of wickets.

It is huge, attractive, uncluttered - oh, and quick - and one reason not to side with cricket's rush to embrace this computerised age in its desire to be perceived as modern.

TALKING of embracing the computerised age, this diary, sadly, is clearly a microchip short of a laptop. In the eagerness to praise Australia's cricket analyst last week (there is a disease abroad which involves praising all cricketing things Australian because they keep beating England in Tests) it omitted to mention England's cricket analyst.

True, Nick Slade is not in Australia and Mike Walsh, his Australian equivalent, follows the team everywhere. But Slade remains a key member of the side. He has watched and charted every international ball that England have bowled or faced this winter. "I shall be glad to get back to something like normality," he said. "I would like to sleep at normal times again. There are about 10 different statistics attached to every ball. I just provide the facts but I suppose when it gets to 5.30am it might be a bit difficult to pick the googly."

This is one sector, incidentally, where it is important to point out that England had the drop on the Aussies. Slade took up his post in the last home Ashes series two years ago, Walsh started last autumn. Slade, who has a degree in sports science, has been sending tapes to the players all winter and believes they have lacked nothing by his physical absence. That, you see, is the wonder of software.

THERE was something of a hoo-ha in Sydney while England were establishing their magnificent third-wicket partnership against Australia last weekend. Pat Murphy, the experienced BBC man who begins to approach venerability, could be overheard pleading with his producer in London to allow him on the air. Or, at least, give a score.

It seems that Murphy was prevented from giving regular updates because of the non-title fight between Mike Tyson and Francois Botha which was being broadcast on Radio Five Live. So, for 50 minutes between 4.25am and 5.15am the cricket listening public was deprived.

There was good news to report, too. England moved from 49 for 2 to 123 for 2. Had Tyson taken longer than five rounds to knock over his South African opponent in Las Vegas the delay might have been longer. Five Live caught up later when Murphy could be heard at his articulate, passionate peak. Having lost telly cricket, however, perhaps paying such fulsome homage to boxing was not the most effective way for radio to demonstrate its continued loyalty to the game.

AMONG the most passionate fans encountered on this tour was a man in a Melbourne bar dissecting Mark Waugh's cover drive. His name is Dionisios Apostolopolous, whose father emigrated from Greece 40 years ago.

"You'd be surprised just how many of those who came over from the non- playing countries in Europe have taken to cricket," he said. "My dad, who'd never seen a game in his life before he came, is mad about it. He can probably name every player in every Shield team. It'd be good to have a Greek name in the Aussie side one day."

He was pleased to hear that actually there has been. Xenophon Balaskas appeared for Australia in the Thirties. "Well, it's about time for another," said Dionisios.

ALEC STEWART is a good old pro at press conferences. He does not give much away, but just enough to be going on with. It is part of the territory that he also hands out tickings-off because he perceives the English press are not as supportive of England as the Australian reporters are of Australia.

But he can be a dry stick as well. In musing on Surrey's overseas professional this summer he said there would be no point in having one unless he was of the highest class. He was informed that Michael Slater was returning to Derbyshire. "Oh, yeah," he said, "what's he going to do, play single- wicket competitions?"