Cricket: Man in the Middle: Student moves up a grade

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The Independent Online
MARK ALLEYNE, born in Tottenham, educated in Barbados and east London, has been in Bristol long enough for a West Country burr to flavour his conversation. In his fourth season as a capped player, he moves into the senior ranks of a club he first represented in 1986, and feels keenly that Gloucestershire are under-achieving. Their neighbours beyond the Severn Bridge are no strangers to propping up the table, but the present gap between Cardiff and Bristol is almost as wide as the Championship table allows.

Alleyne accepts some responsibility. In 1990 he proved his worth with a massive 256, and since then he has progressed up the batting order. This year no Gloucestershire batsman has cashed in until the present game, but with two seventies in the past fortnight, Alleyne's touch is returning.

Alleyne was the first graduate of that extraordinary example of local-authority initiative, the Haringey Cricket College, eventually the victim of rate-capping (though a phoenix called the London Cricket College has arisen). Its leading light was the inspirational Reg Scarlett, briefly a West Indies player, who allowed his students to dream of cricketing excellence. Alleyne came to Gloucestershire as a batsman- wicketkeeper who could bowl - a genuine all-rounder.

'The college gave you a great opportunity,' he recalls. 'You played against strong opposition, you had people like Roland Butcher, Les Lenham and Fred Titmus coming down to help. They fixed up my brother Steve with a trial at Bristol, and he recommended me. He had just a season of seconds cricket, but I got the chance to stay on.'

A roll-call that includes Alleyne's team-mate Ricardo Williams, Keith Piper, the Warwickshire wicketkeeper, the Derbyshire all-rounder Frank Griffith, the Glamorgan bowler Steve Bastien and Sussex's Carlos Remy, as well as a handful of others who had an otherwise undreamt-of crack at the first-class game - Courtney Ricketts, Steve Dublin, Daren Foster - is testimony to Alleyne's alma mater.

Less so is his criminal record - he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for insulting a banknote. 'I went out to Kenya with a club team, and when we left I had a 200-shilling note which I'd forgotten about. You're not allowed to export currency, and the security guards found it. I tried to give it to them but they wouldn't be bribed. So I tore the thing up - I thought that would solve the problem] I got away with a fine in the end.'

Someone who will not be tearing up any money is Syd Lawrence, whose benefit season this is. 'I must admit prospects for Syd coming back don't look good,' Alleyne says. 'He was really looking fit in March, then suddenly the knee goes again.' If ever Alleyne and his club needed an incentive to start hauling themselves up the table, it must surely be to help secure a profitable season for their lion- hearted beneficiary.

(Photograph omitted)