Cricket: Law becomes legal as rules are bent

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England Under-19 586-9 dec and 37-3

Surrey Second XI 422

WHEN IT comes to observing the laws, cricket has never been renowned for its flexibility. Yesterday's outbreak of anarchy at The Oval more than made up for lost time, however, with rules being moulded like putty.

While Mark Butcher was flaying the England Under-19 spinners on Wednesday evening as if there was no tomorrow, little did anyone suspect that, for him, this was precisely the case. He and his captain, Andy Smith, had already been summoned to play for the Surrey first team in a friendly at Hove, and with Neil Sargeant also beginning the day in Sussex, the home side were three men short when play resumed yesterday morning.

Sargeant eventually returned and Ian Ward was drafted in as substitute. The latter was rightly prevented from batting as Surrey strove to avoid the follow-on, yet when Paul Henderson limped off with a foot injury, Graham Saville, the England manager, persuaded the umpires that the Sussex fast bowler, Danny Law, should not only replace him but be allowed to bowl as well.

The reasoning was clear enough: one Law for us and one for them. Just to rub it in, the whippety youngster took 2 for 23.

As the home side took the field, the biggest ovation of the match greeted the figure leading them out. The man in question was Keith Medlycott, an England tourist four winters ago, now consigned to obscurity after being released by Surrey last season.

Medlycott had turned up for an evening net and although 12th men are strictly barred from captaincy, it was hard to get too shirty in this instance. 'We have to play within the spirit of the game,' Grahame Clinton, the Surrey coach, reasoned. Whether Lord's will agree is anyone's guess.

(Photograph omitted)