Cricket: Honoured Alec misses out in gong show

Cricket diary

CONGRATULATIONS are, of course, extended to England's captain on his award of the MBE in the Birthday Honours List. Alec Stewart's elevation is, however, insufficient to earn him a place in the England Honours XI. He is much too far down the pecking order for that.

Actually, had Stewart retained his former status he would still have struggled to be included in the team which, naturally, provides the only possible opposition for the Honours XI, to wit the Gongless XI. The sides, as decreed by the selectors, will consist solely of players who have been awarded more than 40 Test caps.

This immediately rules out certain notables who might otherwise have demanded the panel's attention. For instance, Mike Brearley might have made a wonderful Honours XI captain. He has the gong (an OBE) but not, sad to say, the caps (39). Similar regulations had to apply to the great Bill Edrich, who in most circumstances would surely have been an automatic selection for the Gongless XI, but Denis Compton's legendary Middlesex twin has neither the gong nor the caps (also 39).

Compo himself gets in (just, as it happens, for the selection rules do not concentrate solely on talent) and the strength of both sides is remarkable. The Honours XI has a slightly bigger squad from which to choose than the Gongless XI. Now that Stewart has joined their throng there are 30 players who have more than 40 Test caps and an honour while there are 24 who have the caps but not the honour.

There are also some 40 or more cricketers, like Brearley, who have the honour but not the caps and no doubt countless more who have neither the honour nor the caps but should have had both. They were excluded from consideration. The Honours XI was tough to pick but eventually it was decided that seniority (of honour, that is) had to be high on the list of preferred qualifications.

Thus, a knighthood would obviously take precedence over an MBE - hence, no Stewart. But the side had to be a balanced one, so it could not include, for example, 11 Knights of the Realm if they all happened to be opening batsmen.

Without further ado here is the Honours XI squad with gong and caps: Sir Leonard Hutton (79, capt), Sir Jack Hobbs (61), Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge (114), Denis Compton CBE (78), Peter May CBE (66), Trevor Bailey CBE - though only recently (61), Les Ames CBE (47), Ray Illingworth CBE (61), Fred Trueman OBE (67), Brian Statham CBE (70), Sir Alec Bedser (51), Derek Underwood MBE (86).

The likes of OBEs Ian Botham, Tom Graveney, Graham Gooch, David Gower and MBE Bob Willis were not included because others with superior gongs were available. Godfrey Evans CBE lost out to Ames on batting grounds. Underwood gets in despite being an MBE because the side, frankly, needed a left-arm spinner.

And herewith the Gongless XI cadre, men with loads of caps, tons of runs, bundles of wickets but not a solitary Palace investiture between them: Herbert Sutcliffe (54), Wilfred Rhodes (58), Ken Barrington (82), Ted Dexter (62), Wally Hammond (85, capt), Frank Woolley (64) Tony Greig (58), Alan Knott (95), John Snow (49), Jim Laker (46), Hedley Verity (40), Graham Dilley (41). The gongless likes of Devon Malcolm, Tony Lock and Robin Smith miss out. Some of that team were around when the Honours List was not so full, some may have declined to join it, some are surprising omissions, but what a game it would be. Coming soon, for Test series purposes, the Overseas Honours XI.

BY being included in the Birthday Honours List, Alec Stewart joins his dad in having letters appended to his name. Mickey Stewart is already an OBE. Thus, the Stewarts are the only father and son combination to have both been honoured and to have played Test cricket. The Cowdreys and the Huttons, only one half of whom has been honoured so far, and the Butchers (none) could yet join them.

IN winning his seventh Gold Award for his 120no in the Benson and Hedges Cup on Tuesday, the Leicestershire opening batsman, Darren Maddy overtook such luminaries as Tom Moody, Viv Richards, Derek Randall and John Emburey. But they never won five awards in a single season. In the space of seven matches Maddy finds himself in the top 20 performers in the competition's history (the best is Graham Gooch with 22 awards), which will, of course, be completed at Lord's next month.

BOOK MARK

"For a wrist spinner, there is one part of the body which needs particular attention - the fingers of the bowling hand. Every spinner who gives the ball a flick will suffer finger damage at times. In the past various solutions have been suggested to anoint the spinning fingers pre-season ... friars balsam and methylated spirits were long used ... urinating on the fingers was an old, less sophisticated ploy, which does not appeal to everyone..."

So that's how it's done, as revealed in 1995, so we ought to have our own Shane Warne by now, in The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling by Peter Philpott.

Silly Point

IN taking two catches for England in the First Test 19-year-old Ben Spendlove (right) became the first substitute fielder to do so at Edgbaston. In the past 50 years, 18 substitutes have taken catches for England at home. Five of them have taken two catches, the others being P Hough (who never played a single first-class match) in 1950, Alan Ealham in 1977, Chris Adams in 1990 and Paul Weekes in 1995. Had Spendlove held a chance at long leg he would have become the first England substitute to take three catches in this country, joining Herbert Strudwick who took three in Melbourne in 1904. The only sub to have held four catches is Gursharan Singh for India against West Indies 14 years ago.

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