Cricket Diary: Father Time bestows a final hurrah on old Nick

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NIGEL THIRKELL will appear at Lord's again today. His son, Dan, will also be in the side. It will be a great moment for them both. The last time that Nigel played at the old ground Dan was only a twinkle in his eye. Today's event, like the first 21 years ago, is the final of the National Village Championship. Linton Park, from Kent, who won it in 1978, will play Woodhouse Grange, from North Yorkshire, winners only four years ago.

Fathers and sons might have appeared together in bigger matches, though probably not at the most famous cricket arena of all. Both Nigel, 43, the side's captain, and Dan, 17, are seam-bowling all-rounders. "He's got the potential to be much better than me, certainly as a batsman," said Nigel, bowing to youth but perhaps giving the opposition something to worry about as well.

Thirkells abound in Linton Park, which is a few miles outside Maidstone. They have been there since Nigel's great-grandfather was hired by the estate as gardener, handyman and cricketer. The game has run in the family since. In the first year of the Village Championship in 1972 Linton Park reached the semi-finals, led by John Thirkell, Nigel's father, who is still club secretary.

By the time they reached their first final, John had retired but there were still two Thirkells in the side. Nigel and his elder brother, Timothy, who is now captain of the club second eleven, shared a crucial sixth-wicket partnership which ensured the Kent side's victory by four wickets. Nigel won the man of the match award for his 3 for 36 and unbeaten 51.

"They say that getting to Lord's is the most important thing, and so it is," he said. "We will remember it as a great day whatever happens but when you get there you want to win. I'd like to do it for the south if noting else. Teams from the north have won it for the past five years."

The Village Championship, organised by The Cricketer, has been sponsored for the first time this summer by Wadworth 6X of Devizes. The search for a backer was long and fraught but at least an appropriate one was eventually found. There is something indivisible about village cricket and ale. It was also good to hear Nigel Thirkell say that the competition had been played in a competitive but entirely fair spirit. Some of the tales from the rustic English greensward have made the Aussies seem like Brownies.

Thirkell senior, who will bat three and open the bowling today while his son bats six and will be a change bowler, intends to go on for a few years yet. But that may not be long enough to appear with his other son at Lord's. William is only three.

IF SURREY still care now that they have already won the Championship they could emulate Leicestershire, the 1998 champions, by going through the season unbeaten. It is unlikely to happen too frequently when two divisions are established next summer. Not that it has ever happened regularly.

Until last year it had not been done since 1973 when the Hampshire of Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge won 10 and drew 10. That was the end of a small run of unbeaten champions. Glamorgan won 11 and drew 13 in 1969, Warwickshire, won nine and drew 11 of 20 in 1972. Until then there had been a long gap since Lancashire in 1930.

The full list of other unbeaten sides is Yorkshire (1900, 1908, 1925), Lancashire (1904, 1928, 1930) and Nottinghamshire (1907). Perhaps the most complete was Yorkshire in 1925 who won 21 of 32 matches, 12 by an innings. Their team contained the likes of Herbert Sutcliffe, Wilfred Rhodes, Percy Holmes, George Macaulay and Maurice Leyland and five of their players reached 1,000 runs. They suffered no Test calls: 1925 was the last year that there was no touring side.

JUST AS we were all preening ourselves on England's ability to compete at Under-19 level, if not beyond, our gallant lads were trounced by Australia. An innings and 109 runs after being all out for 84 in the first innings having won the toss and asked the opposition to bat is a trouncing in anybody's book.

The result prompted further investigations. Sadly these showed that England's Under-19 record is not as good as we have been led to believe. They have lost more mini-Test matches than they have won and against the Aussies they have won three while losing five. Still, a 1-1 draw in this summer's series is riches indeed.

BOOK MARK

"LORD HAKE kept Emmott Robinson out of the county side till he was 35 years old because of a fear that Emmott's very slightly bowed legs would spoil the tidiness of the team. Emmott bowled better... until his claim could not be withstood... he turned out for Yorkshire until he was 50 and was a magnificent fieldsman."

Wally Hammond, A Cricketer's School, proving, as we know in England, that a good 'un does not have to be a young 'un.

DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL

FOR ENGLAND the carnival can never stop, at least not until the next World Cup in South Africa in 2003. Planning for that little jamboree has already started. A one-day squad (it was named on Monday) has been put in place ready to peak for the next tournament. Of course, there is rebuilding and there is rebuilding. Six of the side who lost so dismally to South Africa and India and went out of this year's tournament at the first stage, have been chosen again in the 15-strong winter one-day squad. Still, at least four of them are bowlers.

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