Cricket Diary: Lowdown on the bats out of hell

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The Independent Online
AMID the understandable fuss over that quintuple century, the batting feats of Ed Giddins and Mark Robinson have been overlooked. Giddins, of Sussex, and Robinson, of Yorkshire, are at the other end of the batting scale from Brian Lara.

Figures reveal them to be the worst two batsmen in English first-class cricket, rivalled only by Andy Afford of Nottinghamshire. Robinson has a career average of 2.82, having hoisted it by 0.03 this summer. While Giddins comes in at 3.73, he was rock bottom of the 1993 table with a thoroughly miserable 1.09, achieved in 19 innings with a top score of four.

Yet for men like these there are days when, as it does for Lara, everything comes together. For Giddins the exciting moment came a couple of weeks ago against Hamsphire. As he tells the ripping yarn: 'In successive balls I drove an England bowler straight for six and then reverse lapped him for two. Not bad, I thought, and as somebody said afterwards if he'd had a bet on it happening he would have lost his house.'

The unfortunate bowler in question was Shaun Udal of Hampshire and those strokes enabled Giddins to score a majestic career-best 15. It has probably given him the confidence to go to the crease and play a few shots instead of expecting to get out immediately. Given a following wind and a decent half-volley or two an innings of 20 should not be discounted.

Throughout 124 first-class innings such heady heights have eluded Robinson. His top score is 19 and whatever he achieves he will forever be the man who, in 1990, failed to score a single run in 12 successive innings, a world record. Last week at Middlesbrough he achieved the rare distinction of batting as high in the order as 10, Richard Stemp having been delayed in getting to the ground after being left out of the Test side. 'It happened once before when I was at Northants and Nick Cook had a broken hand. It was then I made my 19. This time it was a bit worrying because I knew Stempy had arrived on the ground and I mustn't get out.'

He stayed around and shared in stands for the ninth wicket of 23 and for the tenth of 25. According to Robinson crease occupation is not too difficult. 'I can get my feet in position to defend,' he said. 'What I can't do is hit the ball off the square, though I hit a four at Oxford University this summer. Every dog has his day, I suppose.' Robinson sounded genuinely thrilled about his boundary and is on the verge of a notable landmark. Going into the present match he needed a mere two runs to reach a career total of 200.

Giddins needs 34 for 100 and let nobody think that such feats to these men mean much less than 501 to others.

AS the Rev Andrew Wingfield-Digby departed his post of chaplain to the England cricket team, sacked by Ray Illingworth as being deemed surplus to requirements, it seemed appropriate to ask the opinion of another authority.

The Right Rev David Sheppard, as Bishop of Liverpool, is not only higher in the Church of England pecking order than

Wingers-Diggers but was a somewhat more successful cricketer. He played for England 22 times, would have done so more often but for his religious duties and twice scored hundreds against Australia.

The Bishop is also not slow to defend what he sees as wronged minorities. Not, however, on this occasion. His secretary said: 'Bishop David feels that it is not something he can comment on. There are people far better placed to give an opinion on it.' As he is both a Bishop and a former Test opening batsman this might be a matter for dispute.

Wingfield-Digby's cricketing prowess was rather dismissed last week as extremely moderate, though he was four times an Oxford Blue. One of his better matches as a medium fast bowler was in May 1977, when he took five for 86. The opposition were Leicestershire and the student clergyman's victims included the captain, one R Illingworth, caught for two. After 17 years Illy has gained revenge.

IN the absence of much else to watch in the first Test the England captain's turnout was easily noticed. He appeared on Sunday with a white sweatshirt over his normal shirt, which is not, somehow, the way you expect England captains to appear, cold as it was. By Monday, however, order had been restored. The sweatshirt was poking out from underneath the proper shirt. And not a pair of sunglasses in sight, either.

QUOTE of the week: 'Make 375 look like a failure' - The alternative cricket magazine, the alternatively named Johnny Miller 96 Not Out, in a section designed to be jocular entitled 'JM's Guide To The Ten Things Brian Lara Might Do This Summer If He Carries On The Way He Has Been'.

TWELFTH MAN

DEREK SHACKLETON, 12th man in the bowling averages in 1956, is 70 this year. He took 2,857 first-class wickets and was renowned for his accuracy. He says of today's bowlers: 'I won't say that bowlers bowled more in my day but I know we pitched the ball up more. I don't get to watch much cricket now but when I see it on the telly I almost shout at the set when I see bowler after bowler pitching it much too short of a length. And the first Test was a case in point.'

(Photograph omitted)

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