Day when plain speaking was more eloquent than money talking

In the outfield
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The Independent Online

There have been two especially eye-catching facets of sponsorship in the First Test. Naturally, this is not counting the logos of the series sponsor, which are placed at either end of the pitch and are the most arresting of their kind ever seen. Indeed, there is a case for arresting whoever designed them on behalf of npower.

But there have been other matters, regarding the captains. The first arose as soon as Nasser Hussain came out to toss on Thursday morning, the second when Steve Waugh came out to bat.

The toss first. Hussain was sporting for this historic moment a white baseball cap bearing the three lions on the front and the name and emblem of the team's sponsors, Vodafone, at the side. It is England's training cap but its commercial connotations at such an occasion seemed grossly out of place.

This was particularly so because the man accompanying Hussain was Steve Waugh, and he was not wearing a baseball cap with the sponsor's name. He had atop his head his frayed baggy green cap, the one that bespeaks an Australian Test cricketer.

The rubber peak was coming through the covering material. It looked as though it had done 136 Test matches, but that only made it more evocative. Waugh was representing his country and was proud of it.

No prouder, it should be reported, than Hussain is to play for and lead England. He is profoundly honoured. And the white cap in question is an official England cap. Hussain has worn it before at the toss, though the sponsors, who are quite rightly keen on their name being exhibited at all television interviews, have no desire whatever to suggest what he has on when the coin is flipped (though doubtless they are not ungrateful).

It looked, simply, tacky, especially alongside the Australian. Nor can Hussain convincingly claim reasons of superstition for his headgear. He was losing his seventh consecutive toss. An England cloth cap might do wonders for his flicking skills.

The Waugh innings second. He was holding a plain, unadorned bat. He might like to show the maker's name to the bowler in his "thou shalt not pass" mode, but there is none to exhibit at present.

Waugh had been sponsored by Gunn & Moore for 12 years until the last deal expired after Australia's tour of India. The company were keen to renew it if they could also sponsor his helmet. That was not possible because the Australian board negotiate a collective sponsorship for the whole team. No agreement could be brokered.

Thus Waugh is flaying England with nobody's bat. He is quite happy, it is said, to go through the entire series like this. Presumably, his price will go up. Given his form, potential backers will be heading for Birmingham now.

The ICC, meanwhile, are considering a relaxation on the regulation which permits bats to sport only the names of bona fide batmakers. Three years ago in England, the Sri Lanka captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, played with a bat which carried an advertisement for Sam's Chicken and Ribs House, and did not satisfactorily prove that they also made willow wands.

Burning ambition

From an extremely sad set of also-rans, makeweights and losers, the Glorious Glosters will attempt next week to become the second most successful English one-day team of all time. Success in the Benson & Hedges Cup final against Surrey at Lord's will give them a total of seven one-day trophies (three Gillette or NatWest, four B&H), behind only Lancashire, who have a total of 11.

In modern terms, of course, Gloucestershire are a country mile ahead of the rest. Victory over Surrey would be their fifth consecutive win at Lord's. Only Lancashire and Hampshire have previously won two Lord's finals in a row.

This, do not forget, is in a climate where it is openly discussed that the game would be better off with only 12 first-class counties, and that one of those likely for the chop could easily be one of the smaller fry such as the Glosters. (Not slow in coming forward to advocate reduction are Lancashire.)

When they first started winning in 1999 it was felt that Gloucestershire were jolly good for the game. Now, another open secret is that many wish they would just go quietly back to Bristol. There would even be, astonishingly, some neutral support for a Surrey win next Saturday. As for the B&H, it was once at the fag end of its life when the Government had tobacco sponsorship of sport on their hit list. It is a fag end relit, and and the sponsorship could easily be renewed when it ends next summer. But nobody is smoking like Gloucestershire.

Group therapy

The cricket crowd-control review group had their first meeting at Edgbaston on Friday. There was no crowd invasion for them to gain first-hand knowledge. Around the ground were posters warning of a £1,000 fine for any incursion. A sound ploy, which probably worked, but which would be difficult to enforce. Any action would have to be brought under civil law, any punishment is not fixed.

The review group have been set up after crowd disturbances marred the NatWest series last month. It is a worthy, serious name. Different, of course, from the working parties which are strewn across cricket's past and have usually led to no work being done at all, though it is impossible to speak for parties.