Barnes the maestro of fanfare for uncommon men

Cricket Diary

So, Curtly Ambrose is intent on going out at the top. Sensible fellow, say some; you're a long time retired, opine others. It must always be difficult for a great fast bowler to know when, as the Australians put it, to give it away, a case of balancing diminishing talent with aching limbs.

So, Curtly Ambrose is intent on going out at the top. Sensible fellow, say some; you're a long time retired, opine others. It must always be difficult for a great fast bowler to know when, as the Australians put it, to give it away, a case of balancing diminishing talent with aching limbs.

What we know of Ambrose is that, at 36, he has gone on longer than most and still has it in him to embarrass England in his final match. What could lie in store for him at The Oval? How have the other great bowlers paraded in their last hurrah?

Perhaps the best swansong of them all was by the man who was perhaps the best fast bowler of them all. In his last Test match, in March 1914, Sydney Barnes had figures of 7 for 56 and 7 for 88, as England drew with South Africa. It brought his tally of wickets in the rubber to 49 at 10.93.

Barnes, then 40, was not to know that it was his last match. He withdrew from the Fifth Test of the series after a difference of opinion with management, and the First World War then intervened. By the time it ended Barnes was too old to resume international cricket, but what a way to bring down the curtain.

Dennis Lillee finished his career by taking eight wickets in the Fifth Test against Pakistan at Sydney in 1984 to make him the first bowler past 350. That was some valedictory match. It was also the finale for Rodney Marsh, who became the first wicketkeeper to make 350 dismissals, and Greg Chappell, whose 181st and last Test innings, like his first, yielded a century.

In addition Wasim Bari, whose final match it was, too, became the first Pakistani wicketkeeper (and third in all) to reach 200 victims.

Lillee's contemporary Bob Willis, on the other hand, took 2 for 123 from 18 overs and 0 for 40 from eight against West Indies in 1984. Illness kept him out of the next match and he retired, never to play again.

Sir Richard Hadlee, fam-ously, took a wicket with his last ball in Test cricket (Devon Malcolm, lbw) in an eight-over spell of 5 for 17. This, however, did not quite compare with Hugh Trumble's effort at Melbourne in 1904, when he took not only a wicket with his last ball as a Test cricketer but also a hat-trick in recording figures of 7 for 28.

One of Lillee's less illustrious partners, Max Walker, signed off from Tests (he was going to Kerry Packer's breakaway World Series rather than retiring) not by a wonderful bowling performance but with his his highest Test score of 78.

Farewells hardly come much more poignant than that of the England seaming all-rounder Trevor Bailey. Against Australia in 1954-55, Bailey deliberately allowed himself to be bowled by Ray Lindwall (for 72) to give the Australian 100 wickets in Ashes Tests, a remarkably noble gesture, although England had already won the rubber. Lindwall, presumed Bailey, might not be around again.

Four years later, in Sydney, Lindwall was around all right. Bailey did not take a wicket in his 14 overs and he then bagged a pair. Lindwall, repaying the gesture, dismissed him both times. Bailey never played another Test.

CRICKET, the ICC can rest easy, is indeed a global game. Supporters all over the world are listening to the Cricinfo internet commentary.

The universality of it all is demonstrated by the copious amounts of fan e-mail sent to the commentary team. Good wishes have come from Brunei, Venezuela, the Arctic Circle, Tokyo, Mexico, Italy, the Philippines and most parts of the USA, including Battle Creek, Missouri. From Jak-arta during the Headingley Test came the missive that the senders had cancelled their Saturday evening out to listen to the excitement (mind you, they would have had time to resurrect it).

The audience continues to increase match by match. The Third Test at Old Trafford had 50,000 log-ins, Headingley had 40,000 over two days, including a record 22,000 on the second day. Listeners are tuning in for five times longer than to the average internet sports broadcast according to Cricinfo's broadcasting partners, Virtue TV. Will Ralph Dellor and Neil Foster be the new Jonathan Agnew and Vic Marks?

BOOK MARK

When Pradeep Magazine's book Not Quite Cricket was published last year it raised an eyebrow but little else. We should have known better, for then came Hansie Cronje. Magazine's inquiry into book-makers' influence on the game in India over the years has just been republished, and assumes a new pertinence. Short on detail, it is long on crushing innuendo and suspicion. As the Indian journalist says: "Not all the controversies in the recent past, nor the attempts to investigate the betting scandal, have made any change whatsoever to the way the betting industry works."

Man in the middle

Steve James' monumental innings of 309 at Colwyn Bay on Thursday was the first triple century ever scored for Glamorgan. James has also scored four double centuries for the county, one each in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999, the last at Colwyn Bay. Only Javed Miandad also had four doubles, one against the Australians. Maurice Turnbull before him scored three. Hugh Morris, James' erstwhile opening partner, made two doubles. The first-wicket partnership of 374 that James shared with Matthew Elliott was the highest for the county. James' previous largest opening partnership was the 250 he put on with Morris in 1992 - at Colwyn Bay.

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