Cricket: Twelfth Man: Croft is out to impress

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The Independent Online
ROBERT Croft began the season impersonating a daffodil, he hopes to end it doing impressions of Richie Benaud. The Glamorgan off-spinner treated colleagues and press to his Benaud act during his side's NatWest Trophy quarter-final win and it is so good he could end up doing it on air if Glamorgan reach the final.

Croft, along with Matthew Maynard and Mark Frost, dressed up in a six-foot plastic daffodil outfit during a Glamorgan pre-season recruitment drive that trebled their membership. He has since been one of the four ever-presents in a team whose success is based on continuity.

While some teams have changed their sides more regularly than England, Glamorgan - unencumbered by Test calls - have stuck to a hard- core 11 players. The XI (Morris, James, Dale, Maynard, Richards, Cottey, Croft, Lefebvre, Metson, Watkin and Barwick) have played ensemble in 15 of their 26 matches to date and all but Steve Barwick have missed just one week.

Not that their reserve strength is weak, when Darren Thomas, fresh from school, became their 15th player last week (Gloucestershire and Hampshire have used 20) he won the game against Worcestershire.

THE new computer scoring system continues to encounter freak problems. Not least of these is trying to operate in some of the more outlandish Sunday League venues. At Moreton-in-Marsh the power lines did not reach as far as the scorers for the Gloucestershire v Middlesex match. Neither, it soon transpired, were the computer's internal batteries capable of lasting much beyond the opening slog. So it was back to trusty paper and pen until rain ended the need for either system.

THE ability of players and counties to fill any gap in the schedule with a match continues to defy complaints about too much cricket but there is a game with a difference on Wednesday. A hundred years ago W H Brain, keeping for Gloucestershire off a 16- year-old schoolboy C L Townsend, recorded the only instance of a hat- trick of stumpings in first-class cricket. Brain was related to the Cardiff brewers of the same name and they have donated a trophy to commemorate the event. It will be played for over 50 overs at Cheltenham College against Somerset, the same opponents and venue of a century ago.

A HIGH standard of entries to last week's competition asking for the ingredients of Yorkshie pie but, oddly, none from the Tyke county itself. Second place went to Coventry's Richard Warren for: 'A rich mixture of brawn, grouse and tongue, hard-boiled in an unusually thick skin (sage or nuts according to taste).

The honours, and a bottle of Aberlour whisky go to Ruth White, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, whose recipe was: 'Home-bred topside, rare and peppery; blend with tripe during times of shortage. For best results, although it may leave a slightly bitter taste, cover with a Caribbean-seasoned batter.'

With the need to rebuff post- Ashes gloating in mind, next week's bottle will be awarded to the sender of the best Australian joke.

SATURDAY SURFIE: Australian wine. Not content with coming over here and beating our cricketers and golfers the Australians are also taking over our off-licences and dinner tables.

Eight years ago - when David Gower was leading England to Ashes success - Australian wine was barely seen on an Englishman's table, a mere half-million litres a year being sold here. Now they shift 76 times as much and have even conquered the dining rooms of MCC.

The Lord's wine list features an 'MCC label' Australian red which was voted seventh in this year's top 100 wines listed in the Californian Wine Spectator magazine. A fair achievement for a bottle that retails at about pounds 6 - most of those in the imbibers' roll of honour are at least 10 times that much.

Cornhill Insurance has resisted the invasion, combining with Yorkshire CCC to defiantly serve French wine at the last Test but those Australians known to like a drop of wine with dinner, such as Steve Waugh and Bob Simpson, can always nip down to the offie. There remains little prospect of finding English wine on the dinner table.