MAN IN THE MIDDLE
In 15 seasons of playing first-class cricket with Hampshire and Essex, seam bowler Steve Andrew has not been capped. He has to be the oldest uncapped player in the professional game.
Given that situation, which is unlikely to change, it is logical to expect the 31-year-old to be embittered, but not a bit of it. If he feels hard done by, then he has become adept at burying his feelings.
"It's a fact," he states. "I can't get away from it. It would have been nice to have been capped, but I haven't taken 50 wickets in a season.
"I still think I am very privileged to have been paid to play cricket at this level. I just love sport, always have done.
"My parents had my future all mapped out for me, a career in music. I played the violin but when I was 13, having got as far as grade five I gave it up. I wasn't prepared to devote the time needed to practising. That cut across the time I could be playing rugby or cricket."
But now he is beginning to contemplate life after his gentle amble through professional cricket. "I want to stay involved in the game," he says, "but as what I don't know."
He could probably earn some sort of a living out of golf. He plays off 10 despite limited opportunities to get a round in during the season. "But lately I have been considering the possibility of training to become a chiropractor [manipulation of the joints, especially of the spine]. I suffered a back injury early in my career, resisted the surgeon's knife and ended up being treated by one and it was amazing.
"With my knowledge of the game and. particularly the problems fast bowlers encounter, I think I might enjoy that."
His thinking cap is on. Who knows, it may even fit.
THE TOP TEN
Tail-ender's top scores
This season Career
David Millns (Leics) 114* 114*
Ben Phillips (Kent) 100* 100*
Ashley Giles (Warwicks) 97 106*
Peter Martin (Lancs) 78* 133
Martin Bicknell (Surrey) 74 88
Paul Jarvis (Sussex) 64 80
Julian Thompson 59* 59*
Simon Renshaw (Hants) 56 56
Martin McCague (Kent) 53* 63*
Paul Franks (Notts) 50 50
They've kicked down the doors to the hutches, pinned back their ears and hopped on to cricket's runway. Enter the Super Rabbits. Gone are the days when, as Ray Illingworth puts it: "There was no point in nine, 10, jack taking half an hour or more over a few runs. That was just a waste of precious time in the days of three-day cricket."
But this season alone there have been some impressive performances from the lower caste. Kent's Ben Phillips and Leicestershire's David Millns (right) lead the way with centuries and there have been a clutch of big fifties and Essex's Ashley Cowan has a better average than Graham Gooch this season.
The reason is twofold, according to Illingworth. "Firstly there is more time with four-day cricket so lower-order batsmen can build an innings. They are not under so much pressure to get quick runs and then get out. But more significant are the demands of the one-day game. Everyone has to be able to bat a bit so more work is done on technique."
With the leaders, Gloucestershire, having a week off Glamorgan, Kent and Essex will be looking to sneak ahead of them. The Welsh county look to have the best chance although they were thoroughly outplayed by bottom-of-the-table Derbyshire in the previous round of matches.
This week Glamorgan, one point off the lead, take on ninth-placed Nottinghamshire at Colwyn Bay. Their batting, as ever, is formidable but on the bowling front Waqar Younis is having, by his own standards, a lean time of things. That is in sharp contrast to Nottinghamshire. Paul Franks and Chris Tolley have taken a hat-trick in successive matches and the attack looks altogether more capable.
Kent's narrow victory over Middlesex will have done wonders for their confidence. Leg spinner Paul Strang is in the wickets, as is fast bowler Martin McCague. Since the win was achieved without Mark Ealham and Dean Headley, there is every reason to suppose - weather permitting - that Kent will overcome Worcestershire.
Essex have the hardest-looking match against the defending champions, Leicestershire, at Colchester. Graham Gooch's successor, Darren Robinson, is bang in form and should provide the sharp Leicestershire attack with a challenge.
TERMS OF THE GAME
Introduced with the advent of floodlit cricket to ensure equality of the time that teams bat in daylight and under artificial light. Lancashire's first floodlit game, a 50-over affair on Monday, was transformed into a match of four quarters of 25 overs each.
Since the aim is to appeal to newcomers, it demands a shorter concentration span and creates four high points. It may be bizarre having a supper interval, but 15,000 people enjoyed that at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
When the floods hold off you can expect runs to flow
AROUND THE GROUNDS
Castle Park, Colchester
They are going to miss Graham Gooch this year. Essex's newly retired opener has had a pretty good time on this ground where Championship cricket was first staged just before the start of the First World War in 1914. On his previous two visits here the former Essex and England captain has scored a century.
In 1995 there was a veritable spate of runs - appropriate for a ground with a propensity for flooding - and Gooch was one of three Essex batsmen - the others being Nasser Hussain and Mark Waugh - to score a hundred as the county piled up 662 for 7 against Hampshire, the highest innings total by Essex on Castle Park.
It is an unlucky ground as far as the weather is concerned. And given the present vagaries and bloody-mindedness of the summer it is ominous to note that this year's visitors, Leicestershire, were also the opposition in 1958. On the third day of that match Castle Park was totally submerged in water. Chairs and boundary boards floated across the ground and the then Colchester secretary had to resort to waders to get around.
It is the second ground in Colchester, the other being the Military Garrison Ground. The flooding at Castle Park entailed a switch to the Garrison to complete a match in 1966 when the first two days were washed out and the final day's play was moved to it.
The flooding is due to a high water table. It is situated near the Castle Mound from which parkland slopes away to the valley bottom and fertile meadows.
Castle Park is the only ground on which a player has scored a double century in each innings when, in 1938, Arthur Fagg, of Kent, scored 244 and 202 not out. Mind you, four Essex players were absent on duty at the Gentleman v Players match at Lord's.
Top of the form
Most runs and wickets in their last five Championship innings
Bowlers Wkts Last five (most recent on right)
1 M Smith (Gloucs) 19 5-23 1-42 3-36 6-47 4-59
2 K Evans (Notts) 17 4-40 3-115 6-91 2-35 2-20
3 K James (Hants) 17 1-52 2-58 5-44 8-49 1-49
4 P Martin (Lancs) 17 8-32 5-47 3-61 0-25 1-41
5 A Donald (Warwicks) 16 4-64 6-55 1-52 5-98 0-47
6 A Sheriyar (Worcs) 16 3-118 1-47 6-19 4-44 2-28
7 G Rose (Som) 15 3-82 3-79 3-22 2-81 4-75
8 M Bicknell (Surrey) 14 3-24 4-88 5-34 2-111 0-43
9 J Kirtley (Sussex) 14 4-98 6-60 0-37 2-59 2-125
10 D Malcolm (Derbys) 14 4-91 5-85 0-86 4-102 1-84
Batsmen Runs Last five (most recent on right)
1 A Stewart (Surrey) 412 0; 11; 271*; 32; 98
2 S Young (Gloucs) 378 48; 38; 3; 237; 52
3 D Lehmann (Yorks) 368 57*; 62; 3; 163*; 86
4 M Hayden (Hants) 365 63; 150; 58; 0; 94
5 M Ealham (Kent) 306 20*; 122; 15; 10; 139
6 P Prichard (Essex) 296 51; 0; 50; 75; 120
7 M Dowman (Notts) 294 11; 19; 96; 149; 19
8 N Johnson (Leics) 279 0; 72*; 117*; 76*; 14
9 M Watkinson (Lancs) 266 3; 29; 75; 135; 24
10 K Barnett (Derbys) 259 54; 24; 58; 94; 29Reuse content