Cricket: Old school tie suits Randall: Trent Bridge pays tribute to a favoured son by rolling back the years. Jon Culley reports

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BEFORE the Centenary Test began in Melbourne in March 1977, the Australians took great delight in informing their guests that plans had already been laid for celebrations to continue with a 40-over game should a fifth day not be required. Yesterday, after a fashion, they finally got around to playing it.

The venue this time was Nottingham, the occasion another celebration, to salute the career of the player whose performance 16 years ago ensured a fifth day.

Derek Randall's 174 did not deny victory to the Australians but in helping England get within 45 of a target of 463, the chirpy chappie from Retford announced to the world that behind the repertoire of physical eccentricities lurked supreme talent.

Now aged 42, and with 21 years of clowning at the crease behind him, Randall is saying his goodbyes. It was to support his testimonial season that two teams bearing an impressive resemblance to the Centenary Test re-enacted the contest, in 40 overs form, at Trent Bridge.

Eight of the England team turned out, with only Alan Knott, Bob Willis and the captain, Tony Greig, unable to accept the invitation. Neither Dennis Lillee nor Rodney Marsh could make it, but four of the originals did and the pedigree of the supporting cast could not be questioned.

Naturally the passing of time has taken its toll on hairlines and girths but in some ways nothing much had changed: Greg Chappell batted with serene magnificence, Randall swooped around the covers, Chris Old even picked up an injury.

Randall played to the gallery, delighting with his jovial antics in the field and improvisations with the bat, even chipping in with an over of appalling slow-medium, during which he made a theatrical appeal for leg-before when a full toss located Doug Walters' toes.

Chappell had said beforehand that the Australians would be playing from memory but evidently his is as sharp as ever. The bowling, not surprisingly, was some way short of hostile but Chappell, three years Randall's senior, has lost none of his timing. His 73 off the same number of balls included nine fours and a six of the highest vintage. These days, Chappell runs a golf equipment company in tandem with television commentary work but on this evidence need not have given up his original calling.

With assistance from the 52-year- old antiques dealer Ian Redpath and the radio presenter David Hookes, Chappell provided the bulk of Australia's total before Derek Underwood, coming in off a longer run than John Lever or Mike Hendrick, hit his middle stump.

England failed by four overs to complete their allocation but after Mike Brearley and Bob Woolmer had set up a sound platform, built upon by an 88-run stand between Randall and Dennis Amiss, their target should have been passed.

Trust the England manager Keith Fletcher to blunder at the critical moment. The Gnome had the bowling with three runs needed from three balls when he lunged down the pitch to Hookes's slow left-arm and was stumped, leaving the field to a derisive response that did not seem entirely in jest. Bob Taylor, one of those specialist wicketkeepers who his predecessors used to pick, saved Fletcher's blushes with a last-ball single, leaving the scores tied.

Randall stands to make some pounds 30- pounds 40,000 from the day and will presumably express considerable gratitude to his long-time sponsors, Auto Windscreens, for forking out pounds 150,000 to make it happen.

(Photograph omitted)