Cricket Diary: Roseberry's flowering ambition

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WHEN the England selectors called Middlesex last week for a batsman named Mike it was not Roseberry they had in mind. At 27, the opener is 10 years younger than the Mike who is in demand - Gatting - and the name has probably only featured in Raymond Illingworth's thoughts when planning a day out at the Yorkshire landmark Roseberry Topping.

Mike Roseberry had an undistinguished England A tour two winters ago but he might be, by now, just another county pro wearily going through the motions. It was welcome to hear him reject such an assertion, especially when one pro, Nick Folland of Somerset, gave up the game last week in disillusionment.

'I'm still very ambitious,' he said, reflecting on his season and his career. 'You have to be like that. It gives you the impetus to go on, apart from anything else.

'It's important to think you've always got a chance of playing for England. A good run of scores and people are soon talking about you. That's the way of the game in England.'

For now, Roseberry is one of that seemingly endless English supply of outstanding schoolboy batsmen who for some reason do not go on to great things. He smashed all the records going at Durham School. In one summer he scored four centuries in five innings, a run broken only by a 99.

At 18 he went on a Young England tour to the West Indies. (Perhaps it should be noted that from that series three of the Englishmen but only two of the West Indians have since played Test cricket.) At 19 he was playing for Middlesex.

'When I first started in the county game I struggled, no doubt about it,' he said. 'I'd been an outstanding schoolboy, but this was a different world. Middlesex stuck by me.'

It seemed that the perseverance of both parties was to be fully rewarded when Roseberry scored more than 1,700 runs for the county two summers ago. The A tour was deserved, Tests surely beckoned.

'I didn't do as well as I ought to have done,' he said. 'I was carrying a long-term injury and tried to play through it. That was my own fault, but at the time all you're thinking of is to do as well as you can.'

Roseberry has begun to restore his fortunes this summer. He scored runs at Northampton on Thursday and if they will not earn him a trip to Australia - he will probably spend the winter in his house in Durham - he is still looking ahead with optimism.

'I've got ambitions,' he reiterated. 'I always will have.'

IT WAS inevitable that Mike Gatting would again have his record scrutinised after being summoned by England. For all that it appeared a crass selection, his figures bear the closest of examinations.

Gatting made the squad for the final Test because of his form this summer. He is third in the national averages, which is not unfamiliar territory. Averages may mean little to the average professional, but if Gatting maintains his position he will have finished in the top 10 in 10 of the past 14 seasons, in the top five in seven of them and out of the top 20 only once, in 1990.

That was the summer of hot weather and low seam when most grandmothers could have made hundreds. Gatting, 26th in the lists, still averaged well above 50 and made perhaps the best century of the season, on a rain-affected pitch at Derby which was later decreed to be unfit. It should not be difficult to understand why he still catches the selectorial eye.

ENGLAND'S opening attack on the first morning of the final Test was provided by Derbyshire in the shape of Phillip DeFreitas and Devon Malcolm. Even for a county with a rich tradition of seam bowling, and even though DeFreitas hardly learnt his cricket there, this was a notable achievement.

It was not, however, unique. In the final Test of the 1947 series against South Africa (when England had a rather better time of things) both opening bowlers also came from Derbyshire. They were Bill Copson and Cliff Gladwin.

LAST week's Twelfth Man, in which Vic Wilson, the former Yorkshire captain, expressed the worry that his record innings of 223 at Scarborough would be beaten by Brian Lara, caused some justified consternation.

As Kevin Maguire of Batley pointed out, this is impossible because the record innings for the ground is Ken Rutherford's 317 in 210 minutes scored in 1986, which beat Jack Hobbs's 266 in 1925.

Wilson's record is for a Yorkshire batsman at Scarborough. His confusion is probably more understandable than that of some of us who actually saw Rutherford's astonishing innings.

REMINISCENCE of the week is from 25 years ago. 'By opening the door on a restricted and sensible basis to the overseas stars, the counties lifted themselves out of a depressing rut,' reported the editor of Wisden, whose words the TCCB may care to reflect on before showing these saviours the door at the December meeting.

TWELFTH MAN

GEOFF MILLER, of Derbyshire and England, 12th man in the 1976 bowling averages, and now extremely popular as an after-dinner speaker: 'I got lumbered at first with a local do and then did a bash for John Lever's benefit in Southend. I told cricket stories but I had no timimg. A couple of lads came up afterwards to say I was an utter waste of time. But I stuck at it and developed my own style.'

(Photograph omitted)

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