Cricket: Glimpse of an opening in bespectacled spectacular

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
WHAT MUST truly have bothered England as they dwelt on their defeat in the series against New Zealand was that one of its chief architects was not only a 20-year-old left-arm spinner with long hair. Daniel Vettori also wore glasses. Not cool-as-you-like, a la mode, wraparound shades but prescription spectacles to correct an impairment in his vision.

Vettori is a good cricketer and he will become an extremely accomplished one, perhaps confirming the admittedly little tested adage that batsmen don't make masses against bowlers who wear glasses. He is likely to be all but alone in donning them in the modern game and they may well prove a trusty ally. They can be misleading in a confrontational, athletic game. On the field of play glasses can give their wearer, as in Vettori's case, the look of a librarian, which disguises the cunning, in the nicest possible way, of a snake.

Young Daniel, however, may, for the moment, have to settle for taking out the drinks in the Bespectacled Test Players' XI, the two qualifications for which are implicit in its title: wearing specs to play at some stage in their Test careers. There is a left-arm spinner demanding inclusion who does not bat or field as well as the Kiwi but who once bamboozled England to a much greater degree. Step forward, Alf Valentine of the West Indies.

Valentine is of Fifties vintage and not surprisingly in these days of soft contact lenses most of the team are from way back. But not all. While none of the side has played in the Nineties four did so, three of them formidably, through the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. The batting order is strong, the fast bowling less so, the wicketkeeping is adequate and the spin bowling more so. The selectors have been spoiled for choice in nominating a captain. In the end, somewhat controversially, they decided to go with the chap who was considered inspirational, dashing and adventurous but never led a Test team, ahead of one of the most successful of all Test captains.

The XI, then, in batting order, is: Geoff Boycott (England); Eddie Barlow (South Africa); Zaheer Abbas (Pakistan); David Steele (England); Mike (M J K) Smith (England); Clive Lloyd (West Indies); Peter van der Merwe (South Africa); Percy Fender (England, captain); Paul Gibb (England, wicketkeeper); Bill Bowes (England); Alf Valentine (West Indies).

Gibb, a rare spectacles-wearing wickie, kept in three Tests just after the Second World War, having played in five as a batsman just before it. Bowes and Barlow would have to share the new ball with Lloyd and Boycott as seam back-up and a fervent desire for a swiftly turning pitch with Valentine and Fender, and to a lesser extent, van der Merwe and Steele involved. Vettori will be making his breakthrough in this side soon. No opposition has yet been found. Maybe the Earringed XI, much more modern, will come forward.

APPARENTLY, THE following statement of 75 words, penned by an anachronistic cove much too old for an outdated job, has been discovered. "My experience in a changing world will count for much. I have attended sessions regularly and although my interjections in the present cut and thrust are not what they were and I now tend to nod off in the arena I can invariably be trusted to hang around till the division (the second division) not for the expenses but because hard decisions must be taken and seasoned veterans who know the score are obviously indispensable." It was thought at first that this was from a hereditary peer taking up the Government's invitation to outline why he should retain his Lords seat but was actually by a thirtysomething bits-and-pieces county cricketer explaining why he should retain his Lord's seat.

HIS "we murdered 'em" will feature prominently in any history on England coaches, but in his new guise as infectious commentator, David Lloyd has a bon mot or two up his sleeve yet. Never afraid, rightly, to give an opinion, he was musing last week on Surrey's decision to bowl the novice seamer Ian Bishop. "Probably the wrong option," said Lloyd at the very moment mind that Bishop took a wicket. But Lloyd has smart lines too. When the debutant Jamie Pyemont was out first ball the commentator said: "It's Hollies time. Just One Look." Though it might have passed 20-year- old Pyemont by. "Just One Look" was a hit record for the Hollies 36 years ago.

BOOK MARK

"A knock-out competition has been before us... it was considered that any departure from the existing method of three-day matches would be detrimental to the first-class county cricket ... it would be detrimental, a captain will be drawn towards placing his field and using his bowler not to take wickets but to keep runs down." On the day of the 37th one-day knockout final, from the Advisory Committee's 1943 report showing it all might have happened two decades earlier.

DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL

AUSTRALIA'S CARNIVAL never stops. It might just have been adorned with an extra firework or two by their second World Cup triumph. Scarcely having had time to draw breath, they are in Sri Lanka at present for the Aiwa Cup. Just another one-day tournament it may be, but yesterday they won their fourth consecutive match in the tournament. Victories have come by 52 runs, eight wickets, 27 runs and 41 runs. The final is in Colombo on Tuesday. Sounds like the Aussies are already preparing to defend their title.

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