Crowe derides ICC's bent arm of the law

Former batting great bemoans degrees of licence given to today's bowlers

The Cowdrey Lecture is going places. More specifically, it is going right up the noses of the International Cricket Council.

Barely had this year's guest speaker, Martin Crowe, sat down on Tuesday night than the ICC issued a statement repudiating many of his points. During his talk Crowe played as many shots as he did as a stylish and durable Test batsman for New Zealand, which meant he was spreadeagling the field.

In an hour of passionately delivered diatribe, he re-opened a multitude of old sores. Having done so, Crowe let it be known that he was all talked out and declined to expand on some of his contentious points.

He called for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to be thrown out of Test cricket, for more English umpires on the international panel, for huge pay rises for umpires, for Hawk-Eye to be bought by the ICC but only as a guide and never as a judge, for a return to the back-foot no-ball law and for two innings a side in Twenty20.

There was a story in every sentence. But his most extreme rallying call was the most straightforward. He said that chucking was cricket's Achilles heel. "I have zero tolerance in cricket," Crowe said. "I'm sick to death of the hypocrisy of the past 10 years. I don't care about 15 degrees here or 10 degrees there. If to the naked eye a bowler is chucking, he should be chucked out."

This was a big statement, echoing the Cowdrey Lecturer of 2005, Geoffrey Boycott, who also derided dodgy actions. So have other Cowdrey Lecturers in the past six years.

What counted as much as what Crowe said was the clear concurrence of his audience. This was not a ragtag bunch but a group of largely thoughtful cricket lovers who presume a bent elbow to be much more perfidious than a bent banker.

In its way, Crowe's wide-ranging speech allowed the ICC to show that not only are they doing something about throwing in the present but that they intend to wipe it out in the future. The ICC cricket manager, Dave Richardson, insisted that actions were much better policed than ever before. Yet he had to concede that if the letter of the law was applied there would be no bowlers left.

It is true that several bowlers have been reported in the past year - none of them stars of the game - and that the Pakistani Shabbir Ahmed has been banned for a year. But it may be more pertinent that 12 bowlers were reported for suspect actions in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year.

If Crowe was aware of this he chose not to mention it. Equally, the ICC chose not to mention the words of one of the scientists they employ, who devised the software which allows bowling arms to be tracked, initially setting levels of 10-degree flexion for a fast bowler and seven-and-a-half for a spinner, which the ICC have since raised to 15.

Dr Paul Hurrion told this newspaper in January: "I suppose it's only really as a result of a couple of high-profile players that some of those values were challenged." He also acknowledged that several prolific wicket-takers had elbow extensions nearer 15 than 10.

Crowe's lecture on arms had legs. Although the ICC will not be reducing their 15-degree rule and indeed an extension, so to speak, is more likely than a reduction, it hit a nerve.

It also showed something above all else. Far from being an important but quaint irrelevance in modern cricket whose only role is as the guardian of the game's laws, the response to Crowe proved that MCC still count. The man after whom the lecture was named would be delighted.

Round-Up: Adams excels with a skilful double century

An unbeaten double century from the 25-year-old Jimmy Adams ensured Hampshire could declare on 572 for 3 against third-place Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in Division One of the Liverpool Victoria County Championship. In reply the home side reached 368 for 3.

Sussex, second in Division One, claimed the last four Kent wickets for only 41 runs bowling the visitors out for 336. Sussex then made 296 for 3 at stumps.

Durham's captain Dale Benkenstein made 93 not out as the home side were bowled out for 258 with Tim Bresnan claiming 5 for 58. Yorkshire reached 189 for 2 in their second innings.

Ed Joyce scored 211 out of Middlesex's 446 against Warwickshire at Egbaston. In reply the Midlands side were 215 for 4.

In Division Two, Northamptonshire were bowled out for 300 at Wantage Road with Usman Afzall bagging an unbeaten century. Surrey were 75 for one in their second innings at close of play.

The Essex batsman Andy Flower impressed against Gloucestershire at Bristol scoring 190 out of Essex's total of 548 all out. The home side reached 70 without loss at stumps.

Somerset were bowled out for 340 at Taunton enabling Derbyshire to lead by 77 runs with eight second innings wickets left.

Hylton Ackerman bludgeoned 309 not out as Leicestershire scored 560 against Glamorgan who made 153 for 2.

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