Cricket Diary: Throwing new light on an old tradition

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The Independent Online
It may be illuminating to hear that floodlit cricket in England is hardly a novel spectacle. Far from being inaugurated this week as some of the publicity may suggest, the night game here is already as old as a W G Grace hat.

When Lancashire play Yorkshire at Old Trafford on Tuesday in the first artificially lit Roses match and Warwickshire meet Somerset in the first electrically generated Axa Life League game on Sunday, they are not so much truly creating history as following in the footsteps of tradition. The most recent attempt to stage floodlit cricket in this country was in 1981 when Lambert & Butler provided pounds 10,500 for a tournament over two days in September at five football grounds. Lancashire, perennial limited- overs kings, won it. The tournament got six lines in Wisden's 1,298 pages the following year.

Still, as far back as 1889 Yorkshire were on the wrong end of a compelling Championship result at The Oval. The contest finished in virtual darkness at 7pm one evening in late August and the only reason for it not being total darkness was the switching on of gas lamps around the ground.

Surrey, requiring 166 to win on the second day of the match, were reduced to 136 for 8 when John Beaumont joined Robert Henderson. It had been decided to see the game to a conclusion because neither side were of a mind to turn out the next day.

Beaumont was struck repeatedly on the hands, Henderson steadily accumulated, the crowd encroached on to the playing area so they could see. Surrey won by two wickets when Henderson struck George Ulyett for four and finished on 59 not out. History records that the county twice sent him overseas for health reasons, which may not be surprising if he was expected to play in those conditions.

It was 1952 before floodlit cricket emerged again. In front of a crowd of 8,000, Middlesex played a team of Arsenal footballers at Highbury for left-arm spin-bowler Jack Young's benefit. Leslie and Dennis Compton were captains and the Bedser twins, Alec and Eric, umpired. The televised match played with a ball painted white saw Colin Grimshaw score 65 in the Gunners' 189. As the Highbury lights were turned on, Middlesex replied with 237 all out, being allowed to bat on. Bill Edrich got 70, Young batted in a miner's helmet. No centuries there, then.

What was probably the first hundred under lights in England was in 1973 in the match between Langley's XI and Such's XI on Parker's Piece, Cambridge. The match, played under the auspices of the University's Cricket Society, lasted 24 hours and each side had five innings. In the hours of darkness gas lamps were erected on each side of the pitch and between 1.40am and 4am on 15 June Roger Coates, batting for Such's team, scored his hundred.

"I don't recall much about it now. There were only slow bowlers on and we used a yellow ball," he said. Coates, who now works for the Bank of England, recalls more about being run out in one of his side's other innings by his partner, who is now the cricket correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph. It is not recorded if the pylons holding the lights managed to stay upright. Coates, indeed, is sure of only one thing. "My maiden century?" he said. "It's still my only one."

IN demonstrating immense graciousness in Surrey's Benson & Hedges Cup final victory, the county's captain Adam Hollioake demonstrated why cricket remains the most appealing of all team games. First, he was swift to dedicate the victory over Kent to Graham Kersey, his former team-mate who died in a car crash in Australia last winter.

Kersey, who was 25 (and played for Kent before Surrey), figured in the post-match analyses almost as much as the Gold Award winner Ben Hollioake, Adam's brother. The captain spoke touchingly of how he felt the side were destined to win the trophy and how the coach Dave Gilbert had got them in a huddle on the morning of the match.

Kersey clearly meant a great deal to Adam, who expanded on the reasons more generally when talking of his experiences representing Surrey and England. "It's different. You almost live with these guys for six months of the year. They become more than cricket colleagues, they are close friends. To win something with people you care so much about has a special ring to it."

It was a short speech, not especially impassioned, but it was memorable.

ENGLISH cricket is, as we are repeatedly told, replete with old stiffs bowling a few overs and batting a bit before the benefit comes along. It was thus a shock to discover that in the first-class matches which started on Wednesday there were so few of these old, extremely boring, farts.

In last summer's under-19 Tests against New Zealand, 15 players represented England. Of these, seven (Uzman Afzaal, B Hollioake, James Ormond, David Roberts - see Nursery End - David Sales, Ed Smith and Mark Wagh) played in the County Championship for their sides last week while Glamorgan's Dean Cosker was chosen against the Australians. If you ask some of us there is far too much of this youth getting in at the expense of experience.

Book mark: "I admire the Australian approach to the game; they have the utmost ability for producing that little extra or instilling in the opposition an inferiority complex that can have, and has had, a crushing effect. Australia have no inhibitions." In the week of the Ashes Test at Leeds that comment, appropriately, comes from perhaps the shrewdest, doughtiest Ashes Yorkshireman of all, Sir Len Hutton, writing in Just My Story published 40 years ago.

nursery end

In his fifth Championship match, David Roberts, 19, made 117 on Wednesday. It was an innings full of mature strokes and coming five days after the younger Hollioake's grandstanding at Lord's was a wonder augury. Roberts scraped only 56 runs for England Under-19s in the unofficial Tests last summer. But for Northamptonshire he was immediately successful. On his first appearance, against Oxford University, he made 72 and on his Championship debut, against Essex, he scored 73. He is a rarity among county cricketers in being born in Cornwall - Truro, to be exact, the son of a farmer. The other two Cornish players around at present - both with names more redolent of the county - are his Northants colleague Tony Penberthy from Troon and Piran Holloway from Helston. The last Cornishman to play for England was Jack Richards of Penzance and Surrey.