Cricket Diary: England's young wizard from Oz

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ONE question will pursue Jason Gallian from now until the end of his career and probably beyond. There is hardly a more important one in cricket: is he English or Australian?

The young Lancashire batsman may have to do better over the years than his first stab at an answer last week, to wit: 'Let's just say I'm an Englishman born in Australia.' This does not address the real heart of the issue which is concerned (a) with whether you feel the day could not possibly get any better if David Boon gets a duck against England and (b) with whether you have sleepless nights wondering desperately if the Ashes will ever return to their rightful home.

'Yes, well, I'm grateful, very grateful to Lancashire for giving me the chance,' said Gallian who was captain of the Australian Under-19 side against England. 'I'm qualified as English now but I suppose Australia's home.'

Gallian's parents emigrated to Australia from Stockport in the early Sixties. ('My dad's accent is still broad.') He formed an ambition to play for Lancashire on visits to the old country between the ages of eight and 15.

The chance arrived after he went to Oxford University and between studying for a social studies diploma quickly established his batting credentials. This is his first full season with the county and he has begun it with two half-centuries against Yorkshire and a career-best 171 against Surrey.

'It's going as I would have hoped. I like opening, I like facing the new ball and like the thought of batting all day because then you know you've got a hundred.' This sort of gritty approach, announced in an accent as Australian as a bush kangaroo, exemplifies his breed. English.

IF the ardour for first-class cricket in Durham begins to cool - and so far the affair has survived the strain - the 18th county plan to lure support from abroad. They intend promoting the game as part of the traditional British heritage trail and envisage a route for sight-seeing Americans which not only takes in Stratford-upon-Avon but also Chester-le-Street.

While the only obvious similarity between the places may be the number of hyphens each contains, Durham's chief executive, Alan Wright, is bullish, as you might expect from a former radio presenter.

'Cricket is part of the fabric of British life. We think Americans will warm to it very quickly once they're guided in the right direction. It could be an important part of our development at our new ground.' (Perhaps Wright may have been the man to sell the football World Cup Stateside).

The new ground, the Riverside, Chester-le-Street, will be open for first-class cricket next year. Wright and the Durham board hope that it will stage Test matches by the turn of the century. A new ground for the new millennium is the thinking, with the Americans having an integral part of it.

Durham members' clubs are already being established in Durham, North Carolina, in Washington and in Philadelphia, traditional home of the American game. (England's first overseas tour was to the United States, in 1859, and Philadelphia undertook a series of visits to England between 1897 and 1914; during one of them the great in-swing bowler J Barton King topped the bowling averages).

'We'll be selling it as part of a package with Lumley Castle,' said Wright. 'They'll surely love this genuine English pastime played in a delightful but most modern setting.'

IT may be merely a passing phase, of course, but chasing a target is looking increasingly like the path to success in the 1994 Benson and Hedges Cup. Considering that the sides batting first in the past four finals have lifted the trophy this theory may yet bite the dust but all 12 ties in this summer's first and second rounds have been won by the side batting second. Scotland, Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Durham all won the toss, decided to bat and lost the match.

QUOTE of the week: 'The South Africans have broken off the Presidential inauguration, they're so worried about this with their tour coming up.' Somewhat jaundiced Durham follower after watching well-known flat-track bully Graeme Hick dismantle his side's less than incisive bowling.

(Photograph omitted)