Cricket: Rebels win Gower vote: Rob Steen on an orderly invasion of Lord's by disgruntled MCC members

THE first 'absolutely disgraceful' of the evening spluttered from the lips of a member from Hove. 'Appalling,' he added, just in case we were in any doubt.

The MCC rebels invaded Lord's en masse last night. One hundred and eleven of the 260 signatories Dennis Oliver has enlisted filed through the hallowed portals to reiterate their dissatisfaction with the selection of the England team to tour India at the turn of the year. Or, more to the point, the non-selection of David Gower.

The upshot was an overwhelming vote - 108-3 - in favour of a Special General Meeting of the MCC, a last resort adopted only three times since the club ceded power over the English to the Test and County Cricket Board in 1968.

Those previous SGMs centred on seemingly weightier matters - South Africa and the 1987 botching of the annual accounts - but one issue promises to be more symbolic of the changing face of English cricket. Is Gower's champagne style to be rendered extinct?

The most vocal rebels were Lord Gilmour, Harold Pinter and Donald Trelford, the gist of their argument being that the only reason for Gower's omission was that his face did not fit. To do so, he would need to do 100 press-ups a day and grow a stubbly beard, a dig at the England captain, Graham Gooch.

In the hope of saving the estimated pounds 17,000 cost of staging an SGM at Westminster Hall, the MCC president, Dennis Silk, had hoped to mollify the rebels by means of a strongly worded letter of complaint to the selection committee, but this was roundly rejected. The resolution to be put before the meeting will be: 'The MCC members have no confidence in the England cricket selectors'.

There is a class element to all of this. The whimsical Oliver, a hire- purchase financier for 46 of his 66 years, has been described by a fellow rebel as a bit of a Captain Mainwaring. Another said the selection process had been 'hijacked by a load of Lance-corporals'.

The problem is that the captains and brigadiers still want a say in the running of English cricket when, in their view, the strings are being pulled by Corporal Joneses. Oliver's original battle plan evoked nothing more than Gower's own dreamy mode of batsmanship. Aside from restoring grace, his aim was to reinstate Jack Russell and Ian Salisbury and replace the recalled South African rebels, Gatting, Emburey and Jarvis.

Oliver now accepts that this was a mite ambitious. 'This is never going to get Gower on the boat to India,' he conceded, 'but next time the selectors sit down to choose a team they won't ignore the feelings of the general public.'

Judge orders ticket refunds

Test cricket, page 31

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