Cricket diary: England's Golden Boots...with spikes on

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The Independent Online
IN the nick of time, the England football team have realised that to have any realistic hope in the World Cup they need a centre-forward who plays cricket. This seems to be the only explanation for the appearance in pristine whites of Alan Shearer in a new television advertisement for a certain hamburger chain (you know, the establishment with the same name as one of the two great Australian fast bowlers who put the frighteners on England in 1921, but not Jack Gregory).

A company spokeswoman, failing to shed much more light on the matter, said: "It may be that he's wearing cricket clothes to deflect attention from the fries. You're used to seeing him as a footballer so you look at him in a different way. When you look back the fries have gone, which shows that you can't wander for a moment or they'll be gone."

This is surely a cover-up for the real explanation. The truth is (but why should a hamburger chain called after an Aussie fast bowler want it revealed?) that England's best scoring moments in World Cup history have been accompanied by a cricketing striker.

Ideally, he should have played first-class cricket. Hence, England won the trophy in 1966 when their goalscoring hero was Geoff Hurst with a crucial quarter-final goal and a final hat-trick. But Hurst was doubtless spurred on by the knowledge that he had once played first-class cricket. True, it was only once, for Essex in 1962 when he was 20 and made 0 and 0 not out but appearing was what counted.

For England to have any further World Cup success they had to wait till Gary Lineker showed up. And if only Lineker had allowed his boyhood batting career to blossom (he still plays high-standard recreational cricket) England might have done better than reach the semi-finals in 1990. He played for Leicestershire and the midlands region till he was 15.

"He was a very good schoolboy batsman, very stylish and a smashing field and I remember he was captain one year and me the next," said Russell Cobb, who played with Lineker in age-group sides and went on to carve out a career with Leicestershire. "But we were always aware he was good at football and after 16 he seemed to drift away."

Enter Shearer but it may be too late. For all that he looks the real thing in the ad, the truth is different. "He played house cricket," said Jimmy Nelson, his former teacher at Gosforth High School. "He was very keen but a bit of howker." Lost in France then.

IT was noticeable - in fact it yelled from the scorecard - that there were 55 extras in Kent's meagre innings of 158 in the Benson and Hedges Cup quarter- final against Leicestershire last Wednesday. They consisted of five byes, six leg byes, 24 wides and 10 no balls (each of the latter counting for two runs).

At 34.8 per cent of the total it was probably a record of proportion as well of amount. The county were, at least, the beneficiaries on this occasion. Not so in 1955 when they conceded 73 extras against Northants in a total of 374 (a mere 19.5 per cent, though the highest single contributor), their wicketkeeper Tony Catt letting through 48 byes when debilitated by the effects of sunstroke. Still, Kent drew and nearly won that match, they lost the tie on Wednesday.

A NEW video is due out presently entitled "Lord's Uncovered". It is narrated by a news reader and cricket aficionado called Trevor (the one with the same name as the hamburger joint and the Twenties Australian fast bowler - see above) and features archive film, interviews and footage gained after unprecedented access.

According to the publicity on the notepaper of the MCC, which owns the ground, the video seems to include Ten Things You Didn't Know About Lord's. The top one on the list is that the ground is named after Thomas Lord which is probably the thing everybody knows about Lord's. The fifth is that Sir Pelham Warner scored the first ever four at Lord's in 1889 which, if so (and not so) would mean that batsmen had been woefully defensively- minded for more than 100 years. Should be fascinating.

BOOK MARK

"It's up to the players and administrators to find something that appeals to that particular market. That's why I'm a fan of night cricket...I don't know why the same thing can't catch on in England - to say the weather would ruin it is just an easy way out. The administrators should forget about making it as near as the real thing as possible: it's not it's simply showbiz...Night cricket can secure the future of the official brand." So was written by the former South Africa all-rounder and current selector, who is in England on commentating duty, in his 1981 book, Mike Procter and Cricket.

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