Cricket Diary ; One cap and a chip on the left shoulder

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The Independent Online
AS Mike Smith dwelled in the outfield in the Fourth Test his flannels flapped about him, looking a shade too large. It could have been Charlie Chaplin shuffling sadly off into the sunset, his trousers about to envelop him.

Smith may or may not get another Test. He probably deserves at least one more in this era of continuity, but the consensus is that his name will not only not be in the squad for the Fifth Test but will be in no England Test cadre again. Ever.

The poor fellow was given a used ball that refused to swing and stood haplessly condemned for it, though 55 wickets this season at 14 runs each suggested some kind of penetrative skills.

Smith appears to have fallen victim to the age-old curse which has clearly been inflicted on left- arm seam and swing bowlers who play for England. There is simply no future in it for them.

The Gloucestershire man may be solitarily unfortunate in being an England left-armer who has taken no wickets but they are the only Test playing country which does not have at least one of the type who has taken 100 wickets. Australia appear to have a mine full of them. Alan Davidson (186), Bill Johnston (160) and Bruce Reid (113) all enjoyed profitable Test times.

For West Indies there was a chap called Sobers (235, though some were with left-arm spin) for South Africa there was Trevor Goddard (123) India had Kharsan Ghavri (109) and for New Zealand, Richard Collinge took 116. Pakistan have unearthed a diamond by the name of Wasim Akram (311 and growing) and Chaminda Vaas is on his way for Sri Lanka.

England's most prolific left-arm paceman is Bill Voce, one of Harold Larwood's fellow exponents of bodyline, who took 98 Test wickets in all. Lately, however, England selectors have realised the value of a left-arm over the wicket swing bowler without claiming the prize.

John Lever (73 wickets) had his moments but since he was around Paul Taylor, Mark Ilott, Simon Brown and Alan Mullally have all been found wanting. When the swing goes so does the potency. Taylor, Ilott, Brown, Mullally and Smith have played in 18 Test matches between them and taken 45 wickets at a combined average of slightly more than 40.

That may not be a good return but all, save perhaps Mullally, could claim that they were not given an extended run. Maybe this is good news for Jason Lewry. The Sussex swing bowler has been out all season with a back injury but he swings it often and late into the right-handed batsman. If he manages to come back and takes a few wickets he should be guaranteed at least one Test match. Like Brown and now, it seems, Smith, an early letter to John Stephenson, captain of Hampshire and founder of the One Cap Wonder Club, may be in order.

THERE was some scavenging for facts after Ricky Ponting scored his maiden Test hundred at Headingley. In so doing he joined Steve Waugh, who did likewise in 1989 (having taken 26 Tests, but look what has happened since).

Ponting, at No 6, became the seventh member of the side in all to have made his first Test hundred against England. Both openers, Mark Taylor and Matthew Elliott, did so as did the other Waugh, Mark, Greg Blewett and Ian Healy. What went largely unnoticed in England's innings defeat was a minor triumph for the vanquished side. In Leeds in 1989 Steve Waugh scored 177 not out, back there in 1993 he compiled a mere 157 not out. In 1997, he was sent packing for four which shows he can be dismissed in a Test match at Headingley.

Ponting, incidentally, having shaved off his beard in losing a bet when Elliott scored his maiden century at Lord's, said he is now accustomed to life without it and will not be growing it back despite reaching his own milestone.

WHILE Warwickshire seek to become the most successful NatWest Trophy team in history, Glamorgan have now shed their record as the least successful.

In reaching the semi-final for the 16th time, Warwickshire are two ahead of Lancashire. Winning it would bring them their tenth final, one more than Lancashire and winning that would bring them level on six apiece.

Glamorgan have now reached the semi-final four times, one more than Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. But, excluding Durham, they have gone the longest, at 20 years, without an appearance in the final.

Book mark: "And we also need the honest journeyman ... In their own way they are as important as heroes as the gods, for they too feed the nostalgia and fantasies on which the county game has been sustained through generations. But for how much longer? It is that same county game, which has survived and nurtured generations, that I see as the soul of cricket."

From Betrayal - The Struggle for Cricket's Soul, by Graeme Wright, published in 1993 and worth recalling in the week of the Mac- Laurin Report.