Cricket: Legends are left at sixes and sevens: Richard Edmondson sees a pay dispute darken cricket's floodlit slog at The Oval

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The Independent Online
CRICKETERS enjoy statistics but the most fundamental one of all, the bottom line, threatened to end the International Floodlit Sixes at The Oval last night.

Some of the game's best- known past and contemporary figures, such as Derek Randall, Jeff Thomson and the new West Indian captain, Courtney Walsh, were in the band negotiating payment yesterday. The main stumbling block seemed to be that the players who had been transported from abroad and were returning immediately after the two-day tournament wanted to see their fees, thought to be about pounds 3,000 a man, paid in cash.

The organisers (who claimed just two men were behind the financial arguments that delayed play for two hours) insisted instalments would be delivered after play last night and then this evening, following the final of the competition.

The word from the players, who would not have been encouraged by the vast tracts of empty seating, was that full payment would have to come this morning or there would be no evening entertainment.

Cricket Legends, the company behind the tournament - who count among their number Roland Butcher, the first black player of Caribbean origin to represent England - anticipated a Transylvanian effect and believed that as soon as the sun had gone down and office hours were over, many spectators would emerge. They never came.

In truth, they did not miss much. Sixes, we were told in the programme, is a fast- moving spectacle, the most physically demanding version of the sport and compulsive viewing.

In fact, it was a slog, and a half-hearted slog at that. Imagine the last five overs of a tight one-day game between two teams from the same pub, and you can capture the subtlety, devotion to history and searing competition that Sixes generates.

If there was an appeal, it was the American Seniors Golf Tour sense of the

mobile museum, the sight of the extra team added to those representing the six major cricket nations: the team they called the Legends.

David Bairstow, their wicketkeeper, who has just four Test appearances to his name, has probably never thought of himself in these terms but Dermot Reeve has and has developed 'Legend' as his nickname. Captain of England for the day, the Warwickshire skipper hardly lived up to it by being dismissed for a duck and four in his first two innings.

There were cameos to enjoy from the men whose appearances are no longer on scoresheets but in Wisden. Derek Underwood, now so splay-footed his cricket boots show almost a quarter to three; Randall, now 43 but still able to make unbeaten scores of 31 and 32 in England's victories over the Legends team and South Africa; Gordon Greenidge, with much of the controlled bludgeon still about him, and Thomson, once the most frightening force in the game as half of Thommo and Lillee, but now about as energetic as Agnes and Lily in the bingo hall.

The dress code is such in modern cricket that a player can spend as much of his life in pyjamas as Rip Van Winkle. Sixes, though, is a departure, with the teams in traditional whites topped by rugby-style shirts.

The rules are not taxing. Each man, apart from the wicketkeeper, bowled a single over and a batsman had to retire if he reached 36. This was by no means rare. The level of scoring required was laid down when Raman Lamba struck the first (white) ball of the day for six. A single was virtually a failure, as 14 an over became the average scoring rate.

The rate that most concerned the players, though, was the one that involved remuneration for their services.

With Allan Lamb, one of the game's more astute business minds, among their number, it would be unwise to bet against their prospects at this morning's meeting.

(Photograph omitted)

Results, Sport in Short, page 47

Yorkshire eye Bevan, page 45