Cricket: Minor figure recalls a major achievement

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
IT IS the final year of the Benson and Hedges Cup, done for jointly by the anti-tobacco and the anti-too much one-day cricket lobbies. On both counts, the political correctness is to be envied but the end of the B and H also means the end of gold awards and of occasional days in the sun for men like Mike Nurton.

Back in 1978, Nurton was named man of the match for Minor Counties West in a losing cause against Lancashire. It was the only medal that particular team picked up in 12 attempts and Nurton himself was hardly a unanimous choice. He scored a solid, brave 51 against an attack in which Colin Croft winged the ball down at a pretty pace with which the opening batsman was wholly unfamiliar, but David Hughes scored a rapid, unbeaten 42 and took five for 23 for the opposition.

"I was standing in the showers afterwards and Hughes and Barry Wood were next to me saying how ridiculous it was that that bloke had got the medal," Nurton said last week. "The money that came with it wasn't very much but the pros pooled it all so I suppose they viewed it as loss of earnings. I was a bit embarrassed by it and got out quickly with my towel and took my wife out for dinner the next week."

Nurton suspects there might have been some wheeling and dealing in persuading Doug Wright to give him the gong. The week before his team had played Derbyshire and he had made 51 as well as taking the wicket of Eddie Barlow but a quickfire unbeaten 56 secured the award for Harry Cartwright. "We thought then they always gave it to the pros," said Nurton, now a cricket coach at Sherborne School.

While his 12,713 runs for Oxfordshire make him the most prolific scorer of all minor counties cricketers he remains the only player to have won a B and H gold award who has never played a first-class match, that is one of three days judged to meet playing and pitch standards. A singular record considering that 486 players in all have won medals, including 39 from outside the 18 senior counties.

The figure may just reach 500 in the concluding year of the competition which began last week when eight new players won Gold Awards before yesterday. It is unlikely there will be another Mike Nurton.

FOR its first match of the season last week Lord's could not be said to be in all its glory. Some of this was to do with the weather but it was also the work on the new structures on the ground. It would be over- piping the scaffolding to say that it looked like those pictures from St John's, Antigua, six weeks before the recent Test there, but a building site it certainly was.

Like the officials in St John's, who were proved correct, Lord's administrators are quite sure that everything that needs to be in place will be in place by the start of the Test match in six weeks. Only the seats have to be bolted on to the top tier of the Grandstand.

The space age module which is to be the new media centre will be complete externally. Turf which has been removed while the builders have gone about their duties will have been replaced. Funny how we doubted such words of assurance from Antigua.

WORK will start shortly too at the world's other most historic ground. Broadhalfpenny Down, where the famous Hambledon team played in the 18th century, is to have a new pavilion. The size and location of this was the subject of some acrimony late last year among various individuals and groups but all has now been resolved (if not necessarily to quite everybody's satisfaction) and the Broadhalfpenny Down Association have launched an appeal for pounds 100,000.

"I'm extremely hopeful that we will raise somewhere in the region of double that so that we can not only erect the new pavilion but set up a fund for the future welfare and maintenance of the ground," said the BHA secretary, Peter Tuke.

Barely a month after the appeal began, some pounds 33,000 has been received from individuals all over the world, some of whom have never seen the ground let alone played there. For the first time Broadhalfpenny Down will have running water and electricity. It is hardly development on the Lord's scale but is that Ricgard Nyren you hear turning in his grave?

BOOK MARK

"Immortality in the Principality. It does have a nice ring to it. The 1997 team will be famous for all time if they manage to retain their title."

From Daffodil Days by Grahame Lloyd, the official record of Glamorgan's Championship win (with pride contained in every sentence), recalling the catchphrase which they used on the run-in and perhaps reminding us they are here to stay.

Silly Point

IT is always heartening to know that professional cricketers are preparing for life after the game is over. In the off-season it is clear that Graham Cowdrey, respectively son and brother of the former England captains Lord Cowdrey (27 times) and Christopher (once), has been taking no chances. In the Cricketers' Who's Who of 1994 he was a qualified electrician currently completing his plumbing exams. Two years later he was a glazier, 12 months after that a farrier (his wife is a race horse trainer) and has now become a potter. Surely, a job now awaits him in gently taking the mickey out of book editors. Mind you, a pounds 300,000 benefit suggests that he may not need to take any more City and Guilds exams.

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