Cricket: Swingometer wins on recount

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
It should be noted that Duckworth, one half of cricket's latest formidable pairing, is entirely unconnected to the former Lancashire wicketkeeper of that ilk. Further, it should be stressed that his partner, Lewis, whose first name is Tony, has no links with the one-time England captain who is now a BBC commentator.

Nor are Duckworth and Lewis, however they might sound, a knockabout duo telling tall cricketing stories on the burgeoning after-dinner circuit. Duckworth and Lewis, rather, are the men who have devised a system of calculating a fair target score in interrupted limited overs matches. They believe this to be foolproof, though whether it is rainproof or not may be another matter.

The Duckworth-Lewis method, which will shortly pervade all our living- rooms via television, is designed both to avoid ridiculously high targets for the team batting second and also to ensure that the team batting first has a fair opportunity. The partners have done this by combining overs left with wickets in hand at any given stage.

It is not easy - terms such as run-scoring resources and initial overs allocation smack of the academic rather than the sportsman - but if it does not require a mathematics degree a stress counsellor may help.

"The whole objective is that under the system a rain interruption will not alter the balance of the advantage," said Frank Duckworth, a former research scientist, who is now honorary editor of the Royal Statistical Society's magazine and played cricket extremely intermittently for his works team. "So that when a team resume their innings they have the same chance of winning as they would have done before. The only quirk is that the impossible [say a team having nine wickets down and still needing 100 to win] will become completely impossible."

Duckworth, who hails from Lancashire and now lives in Gloucestershire, devised the prototype formula after watching South Africa being asked to make 21 from a single ball to beat England in the 1992 World Cup. After he spoke about the formula at a conference, Tony Lewis, of the University of the West of England, became involved.

Hundreds of matches played over the past seven years have been used to gather information for the average score which can be expected to be achieved after a certain number of overs. The role of county scorers in applying the method will be crucial. They have to make the calculations on their computers - though they have a manual chart - and ensure the spectators and players are kept informed.

Scoreboards will tell spectators whether the chasing team are ahead or behind the target, a figure that can change with the loss of a quick wicket or two. "The method will be refined," said Duckworth, "but only minor alterations will be necessary."

The Duckworth-Lewis System may gets it first significant test in England during the Texaco Trophy matches later this month. The inventors were both invited for what may be an important dry, or rather, wet run. They insist that the holidays they will be on then were booked well in advance and that they are not going into hiding.

TWO players have already done this season what only one had done before in the history of the game. Jonathan Lewis and Neil Taylor followed Peter Bowler in scoring hundreds on their first first-class appearances for two counties.

Lewis's unbeaten 210 for Durham at Cambridge University followed his 116 not out for Essex against Surrey in 1990, Taylor's 127 for Sussex followed his 110 for Kent against Sri Lanka in 1979. Bowler scored 100no for Leicestershire against Hampshire in 1986 and 155no for Derbyshire against Cambridge University in 1988 (and on joining Somerset in 1995 made 136 in his second match having been stranded on 84no in his first).

Despite their auspicious starts in the game neither Taylor nor Bowler went on to play for England. Lewis probably will not. Indeed, of the 72 players who made hundreds on debut in this country only eight have played for England in a Test match, the most capped being Archie MacLaren and the most recent being Matthew Maynard.

This is not an especially high achievement rate given such wonderful beginnings and both Adam Hollioake (123 for Surrey against Derbyshire in 1993 and David Sales (210no for Northants against Worcestershire in 1996) may wonder if they did the right thing. No Englishman has scored a century on both his first-class debut and his Test debut. The only man to have done both is Gundappa Vishwanath for Mysore and India.

JUST when Tony Pigott thought waves may be subsiding at Hove he runs into trouble with the library. It is among the most precious stores of cricket memorabilia, is housed in plush accommodation and Pigott is moving it to a Portakabin.

If this seems brutal it is only temporary and will increase security. It will also serve the purpose of giving the humans better offices than the books. Chief executive Pigott assures members: "It is the intention in our redevelopment plans to have one of the finest cricket museums in the world. We're certainly not disbanding it." Sussex, it seems, are learning.

BOOK MARK: "In future I would like to see every school in Britain provided with a cricket net .... so that keen youngsters will be given an opportunity to play the game to the best of their ability. After all not all of them can go to a public school." From Playing For England by Denis Compton, published in 1948.

nursery end

ROB CUNLIFFE, whose season ended in June last year when his mother suffered a brain haemorrhage, scored 113 in a losing cause for Gloucestershire in their Benson and Hedges Cup tie against Surrey last week. "My mum's still in hospital but she has improved," he said. "It's had a profound effect on me and my approach to things. After missing so much of last season this one's important me. And I'm determined to do it for her. I already feel a more complete player." Cunliffe, aged 23, who was extremely successful in six matches for England Under-19s, averaging 58, already has an A tour in mind. Still, he got 136 in the B & H against Surrey last May and they won then, too.