Cricket diary: Disaffection with the ECB is now a real score point

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The Independent Online
IN THE abundance, nay the over-abundance, of cricket literature which has been written, or at least churned out, over the years the men without whom the game could not take place have been resolutely ignored. Scorers and scoring have been paid somewhat less than lip-service. (They have also been paid somewhat less than lip-service in their wage packets, too, but that is another matter).

It is a pity, therefore, that the first - thoroughly researched and well written - chronicle devoted to their endeavours will earn attention not because of what it says about the scoring past but because of its commentary on the sad state of affairs in the scoring present. It begins to feel as if everything about the great game is in a sad state but there is no doubt that the notchers in the first-class game of the late 20th Century are not a happy breed.

According to Keith Booth, the author of Knowing The Score and scorer to runaway Championship leaders Surrey, they are thoroughly disaffected. It should be no surprise that most of their disaffection is with the England and Wales Cricket Board. That body, bless it, would surely expect nothing else.

Booth outlines the strained relations between the ECB and the Association of County Cricket Scorers. Part of the reason seems to be that their wages are decided by the individual counties instead of a standard decreed by Lord's. Not many scorers, probably not any, could live on what they are paid for an increasingly complex and difficult job which is now helping to determine a team's strategy.

But most of their ire is reserved for the Board's continuing appointment for overseas tours of Malcolm Ashton. This is because Ashton, whose competence is not in question, is not a member of the ACCS.

The tour scorer has traditionally been from among the county ranks - a welcome and much-merited perk - and there was much ill-will when Ashton was appointed by Ray Illingworth four years ago. Everything else of Illingworth's regime seems to have disappeared. Ted Lester, the ACCS chairman, has just resigned over it.

But, as Booth observes, the ACCS is a toothless organisation ("a social club more than anything else," he said last week) so the ECB can do what it likes. They have a point about Ashton and if the ECB cannot see that it is blindfolding itself. Booth does not overestimate the scorers' contribution but he laments the lack of consultation. "They thought they could get away with paying us nothing but expenses during the World Cup," he said. They thought right, too.

Booth will not have endeared himself either to the ECB or to his own colleagues in the ACCS. Surrey may not take too kindly to him either. This is the Surrey who think so much of the art of scoring that it has only three scorebooks of the seasons between 1886 and 1958, none covering their seven consecutive Championship seasons in the Fifties. But what Booth says needs saying. He has also helped to illuminate an intriguing slice of the game's heritage.

RUDI ANTROBUS tends not to bowl much these days. He is 53 and is used mainly as a bowler by his club side, Steep, in Hampshire. The Diary makes no apology for another tale from Hampshire and you will see why in a moment. Antrobus batted at 10 in last weekend's county league division five match against Burridge and when his side arrived at the final over requiring 30 to win with one wicket in hand most of his team-mates were in the showers.

The veteran, a card in local league circles whose stock has now increased vastly, hit six off the first ball. The second went for two byes. The next three all went for sixes. The one after that was a wide. But Rudi refused to be non-plussed, he simply hit the next for the maximum as well. This was some spectacle considering Antrobus's age and the match position but was probably as nothing compared to the sight of colleagues dashing from the showers to witness it.

WHILE THE captain of England was breaking his finger last weekend his brother Mel was having no such trouble. The elder Hussain did not come out in sympathy with Nasser. Instead, he made 171no in an unbroken first- wicket partnership of 300 for Fives and Heronians in the ECB Essex League. Apart from a jolly good show by Hussain, this shows that not all pitches under the auspices of the ECB are hopeless.


"The Pull - it is in fact a drive with a cross bat which brings a ball pitched from the off-side of the wicket round to the on-side. It is never used by a good player to deal with the ball pitching on the wicket; at least, if it is, the player is for the nonce a bad one. Most players pick the wrong ball and make no attempt to keep it down. The whole essence of the stroke is picking the right ball and it is the difficulty of doing so which makes the stroke dangerous." K S Ranjitsinhji in The Jubilee Book of Cricket, another tome unread by England's batsmen.


FOR SOME inexplicable reason Mark Ealham is frequently called Alan, his father's first name. It happened regularly during the World Cup and occurred again last week (oh, all right, it was in our sister paper). Odd, because not only is Mark a more accomplished player than his none the less capable father but there are also 10 other sons now on first-class books who are all invariably identified correctly. Anyway, Ealham junior again demonstrated at Canterbury Festival that he is some all-rounder with 80 followed up by 4 for 51. Well done, son of Alan.