Cricket: Baffled by the numbers game

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The Independent Online
PRINCE CHARLES has been at pains to point out in his piece this week in the Spectator that he is "modern" but not modernist. The England and Wales Cricket Board, we had been led to believe, was going the whole hog and rushing recklessly into coloured clothes and the rest of the razzmatazz for these one-day internationals.

Coloured clothes for one-day cricket were introduced in 1977 by Kerry Packer for the one-day internationals played by breakaway World Series Cricket in Australia. The English authorities did not let themselves be rushed into this and have been chewing it over with some purpose for 20 years or so.

I approached Trent Bridge with a spring in my step but it was devastating to find a total absence of dancing girls and cheerleaders. It was compensation of a sort to see the Emirates logo - they are the sponsors - had been emblazoned on the grass at both ends of the ground in rich red and glowing white. This was a start.

The South African pyjamas were predictably green and gold with numbers on their back and on the top of their left thighs - this latter is a novel touch and perhaps it makes them look "sexy". The most interesting aspect of all this was the numbers themselves. Kallis was 3, Cullinan 4, Rindel 15, Elworthy 19 and Symcox 77.

This was all fine and dandy but it would have been nice to have been given a crib sheet which told me and the spectators too, the name that lurked inside numbers 77 or 15 or 8, 2 and 1, come to that.

The scorecard made the confusion worse. Kallis was 6, Cullinan 3, Rindel 2, Elworthy 14 and Symcox 13. The South Africans also had their names on their backs, but cleverly the print had been too small to read.

I spent much of the day trying to find the elusive clue which would have led to the unravelling of the ECB's secret code. Alas, I was unable to break it and so I turned my attention instead to the Sri Lankans in their fetching blue pyjamas, and was somewhat startled to find that their backs were completely numberless.

But all was not lost, the names were written large across their shoulders in rather bigger print than the South African names.

I thought I had won until I discovered that the name on their backs was not the name on the scorecard but their given or first names. Surely the ECB had not suddenly acquired an over-developed sense of humour?

Maybe it has just gone mad or, just possibly, I suppose, it might be me.

I also hugely enjoyed the hectic opening stand of 85 between Sanath (Jayasuriya) and Romesh (Kaluwitharane) particularly when they were facing the bowling of 15 and 19.

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