Cricket: Local heroes dine out on Philo

Stephen Brenkley speaks to the other English bowlers to meet Wallace and Lambert
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a ball of slightly less than medium pace and Philo Wallace stood up preparing to give it the full treatment. He had already played four consecutive defensive strokes in the over and enough, Philo must have thought, was enough. The tennis court beyond the midwicket boundary, which he had already peppered that afternoon, doubtless quivered at the prospect of what was to come.

At the last minute the innocuous but accurate delivery of good length dipped and drifted into him. He pulled above it and it was impossible to see daylight between pads and stumps. Philo was palpably lbw and on his way. It was Steven Ward's fifth ball to him and the West Indian's gallop to a record number of runs in the Durham Senior League had been interrupted.

"I'm convinced that the way to get him is to hold it up," said Ward last week, recalling the moment two years ago when he ensnared Wallace and thus set up victory for Horden over Sunderland. "He likes the ball coming on to him, slow it down and it has a chance of confusing him a bit. I think England should bowl a slower bowler at him at the start of the innings. Of course, it's got to be accurate. Adam Hollioake's the man."

Not the least of England's embarrassments in the Test series against West Indies this winter was the way in which their new-ball attack was mauled in the final two Tests by Wallace and Clayton Lambert. The recalled opening batsmen launched a blistering assault, treating the venerable proceedings as though they were a one-day knockabout.

As the one-day knockabouts are about to start it seemed sensible to ask the league bowlers of the North-east, where the pair have plied their trade much more often than in international matches, what should be done. Ward, 38, was captain of Horden that day in 1996 and after four overs his pace attack was receiving the usual Philo pasting. It was then that he hit on the idea of bringing on himself.

Gary Hulme of Durham City is another pinpoint purveyor of medium pace who did not have such immediate triumph against him but still received respect. There was the day Wallace hit 189 against Durham in a total of 280 and still finished on the losing side and then later in the season of 1996 Sunderland dismissed Durham for 80. Philo, however, took more than 20 overs chasing the target.

"I'd helped him to pass his coaching badge that summer and he just kept playing forward, looking up and saying 'well bowled coach'. Mind you, I can't help feeling he was taking the piss."

Lambert has spent 15 years in the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, their longest-serving professional. Like Wallace he has given bowlers some fearful whackings. Mike Hatch took more than 800 wickets for Darlington and reckoned to bowl his in-swing to the left hander so it tucked him up. Mind you, an inch too far and you were over mid-wicket.

"Looking at him on the television, he's changed a bit," said Hatch. "But he'll still hit very strongly to leg so make him pull it there if you can. He's a very good leaver of the ball outside off-stump. One night in a cup match he hit me for four or five quick sixes early on, walked round the boundary later and said that it had to be his day sometimes. I think really if Greenidge and Haynes hadn't been around he would have played more Test matches, but he's been a hugely popular cricketer in the North-east."

The veteran opening bowler Albert Shutt, 45, has played with and against Lambert for various clubs. He suspects he may be susceptible to being lbw early on. "But you've got to put the ball in the spot outside off- stump, not where England bowled at him."

Lambert will not be returning to the league this year, having failed to agree terms with any club and so their bowlers will miss out on having a bash at dislodging a Test centurion. Wallace, scorer of 1,666 runs in 23 innings last time, will be at Sunderland again. Steven Ward is already preparing to dine out on his story.