England's odd couple follow short tradition of the legendary lefties

In the Outfield

There is a strongly voiced view in many quarters, high and low, that left-handed batsmen should be culled at birth. Although this would have deprived us of the delights of Garry Sobers, David Gower, Brian Lara, Neil Harvey and Sanath Jayasuriya, to name but five, it is clear that they spoil it for all right-thinking people, so to speak.

There is a strongly voiced view in many quarters, high and low, that left-handed batsmen should be culled at birth. Although this would have deprived us of the delights of Garry Sobers, David Gower, Brian Lara, Neil Harvey and Sanath Jayasuriya, to name but five, it is clear that they spoil it for all right-thinking people, so to speak.

Occasionally, though not often, they emerge as opening pairs. Little in the game is more sinister. Such an occurrence arose in the past few days (and will again today, presumably) when England at last had the great good sense to choose Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick as their numbers one and two batsmen.

It was a rare but not solitary experience. England toyed once before with an all left-handed combination in one-day cricket. You would be hard-pushed to nominate the duo in question. In 1984, Graeme Fowler and Andy Lloyd opened in the three one-dayers against West Indies, putting on seven, 75 and 60 as England went down 2-1.

In Test matches, England have used 11 different left-handed opening pairs, only once going through a whole summer. That, too, was in 1984. Fowler and Lloyd continued their partnership in the First Test, putting on one before Fowler was out. Not long afterwards Lloyd was hit on the head by Malcolm Marshall, was taken to hospital with blurred vision and never played for England again.

But the selectors then called up Chris Broad, and he and Fowler played the next five matches, never doing better than in the first, when they put on 101. This is some way short of the highest all-left-hander opening stand. In their only outing together, Bob Barber and Geoff Pullar shared a stand of 198 against Pakistan in Dhaka in January 1962.

Peter Richardson went in with more fellow left-handers than any other opener: Pullar (in six matches and with whom he put on 159 against India in November, 1961), Barber, David Smith and Willie Watson.

Perhaps the most celebrated of England's left-handed combos strutted their stuff in July 1976 at Old Trafford. Brian Close, aged 45 years and five months, and John Edrich, 39 years and one month, batted against the fast-bowling might of West Indies and put on nine in the first innings and an exceptionally courageous 54 in the second.

On the third evening, as Andy Roberts and Michael Holding stormed in with a hail of bouncers, a spectator ran on to the ground and offered the pair a makeshift bat of a foot in width. They spurned it, but presumably only because it was for right-handers.

Motz's rough guide

Sticking with left-handers, Ashish Nehra, the Indian seamer, created an unfortunate bit of history by being removed from the bowling attack against Zimbabwe last weekend. He was warned three times after transgressing in his follow-through on to the protected area of the pitch.

This is an imaginary area five feet beyond each popping crease and a foot in width. Nehra is the first bowler to suffer under the new, more lenient law which extended the distance from the popping crease from a mere four feet.

There are suspicions, but no proof, that he was running on to the pitch to create rough for the menacing off-spin of Harbajan Singh, as though he needed the help. Nehra, who was warned twice by the Zimbabwean umpire, Russell Tiffin and then finally by the independent official, Darrell Harper, becomes the second bowler to be compulsorily removed for deliberate roughing-up of the pitch.

The other was 34 years ago. In the first innings, New Zealand's opening bowler, Dick Motz, took 6 for 63 against India, the best figures of his career. The edge was rather taken off these when he was told by umpires Goodall and Shortt that he had to be removed from the attack after bowling 14 overs in the second innings.

Curiously, this is not mentioned in the report of the match in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Surely the great book was not trying to airbrush this controversial incident from history?

From the Atlantic end...

Until now, St Helena has been most famous as the place where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled for the second and last time and died. Doubtless he would be turning in his grave had his remains not been removed to France 19 years after his death in 1821.

St Helena is now making a new claim for recognition by applying for affiliate membership of the International Cricket Council. It is by far the smallest of the 10 candidates for joining the lowest rung on the ICC ladder.

The others include Afghanistan, Botswana, South Korea and Croatia. Tanzania and the Cayman Islands, meanwhile, seek an upgrade from affiliate to associate, and Kenya has a rolling application for elevation from associate to full, which is unlikely to be granted.

St Helena is a dot on the map in the Atlantic Ocean some 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa. It has a population of some 5,000, barely that of some of the places who enter for the National Village Knockout, and on those grounds alone may struggle to raise a full team.

One in, four out

As everybody knows, the turnaround in players in one-day international cricket is frenetic. NatWest, the sponsors of this summer's triangular tournament, in which the hosts are lagging, are struggling to keep up. The sponsors' glossy guide to the event features four players on its inside cover. They are Azhar Mahmood (playing for Pakistan), Graeme Hick and Andrew Flintoff (not selected for England) and Tom Moody (coaching Worcestershire and retired as a player).

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