For a proper batsman, real life should begin at 50

Cricket Diary: Stephen Brenkley

England might not quite be wondering where their next run is coming from, but they certainly have none to spare. Now that we have all managed to draw breath after the derring-do of last weekend, some harsh facts should be revealed to put the rosy glow into perspective.

England might not quite be wondering where their next run is coming from, but they certainly have none to spare. Now that we have all managed to draw breath after the derring-do of last weekend, some harsh facts should be revealed to put the rosy glow into perspective.

For the second consecutive Test match no English batsman managed to make a half-century. Since that has involved four innings and 43 batsmen this is pretty rum going, even by the standards of a side who have become accustomed to dismal dismissals.

Indeed, it is only the third time in England's 770 Test matches that no individual has made 50 for two Tests in a row. The first occasion was in the 1894-95 series in Australia, when they lost both matches.

The last series in which not one Englishman had to raise his bat to acknowledge the first batting landmark was against South Africa in 1922-23. They lost at Johannesburg by 168 runs - when they made 182 and 218 and Phil Mead reached 49 in the second innings - but won by one wicket in Cape Town, scoring 182 and 173 for 9.

In all, if the Diary res-earches are correct, England have played 39 Tests when in neither innings has a single player passed 50. Of these, they have actually won 12, seven of them, like that at Lord's eight days ago, by wickets margins.

Before the recent epic struggle, the last match which England had won without a single half-century was at Edgbaston in 1981, when they were all out for 189 and 219 and still beat Australia by 21 runs. The man of the match was Ian Botham, but let the records show that the match's top scorer - and this did not happen often to a man who averaged 22.88 - was Mike Brearley with 48. It was the first Test since 1935 - when England beat West Indies by four wickets at Bridegtown - in which no player on either side scored 50.

Twelve of the 39 matches were in the 19th century, 26 in the 20th and the 21st has now opened its account. There were no instances between 1963 and 1976, since when there have been 13. Seven of these, including six of the past nine since 1988, have been in matches against West Indies.

Given the general state of English batting (which is discussed on page nine) and Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, we may not have seen the last of a shortage of half-centuries this summer. The chances could be less than fifty-fifty.

 

On the day of his first call-up to a senior England squad, Marcus Trescothick marked the occasion in what might not be the time-honoured fashion. He spent the evening umpiring a women's cricket match in deepest Somerset.

Trescothick, known as Banger, was summoned for the task by his girlfriend, Hayley Rowse, a stalwart of the Taunton Ladies' XI, who also plays for Somerset. Taunton Ladies, it seems, are a haven for the distaff side of Somerset men's county team. Captain Jamie Cox's girlfriend, Helen, and Rob Turner's wife, Lucy, also play.

"We usually go to watch but generally avoid umpiring duties by arriving late and then going for a quick drink between innings," said Trescothick. "But Hayley rang me to say they really had nobody."

Thus, Trescothick of Somerset and shortly England donned the white coat at one end. He shared the ball-counting duties with Cox and Turner. None of the trio could bring any influence to bear. Taunton lost to Roadwater by five wickets.

England's new batsman said: "I didn't have much to do apart from signalling a few wides, and I didn't call too many of those because I didn't want to be hanging around out there for too long."

 

It has been mentioned - actually it has been mentioned ad tedium - that cricket does not require gimmicks when Test matches such as that at Lord's are produced. Maybe, maybe not, but the idea of interval entertainment is still to be embraced. The NatWest Series will doubtless include all manner of events but will be hard pushed to beat Channel 4's Caribbean Summer Live. It kicked off at Lord's with Third World and Jools Holland, Old Trafford will have LTJ Bukem and Trinity and U Brown. The Oval will serve up The Wailers and the London Community Gospel Choir. Headingley, thoroughly in tune with the Caribbean sound, will give us the Black Dyke Mills Band.

BOOKMARK

"It's not hard to look at the way my life has developed and realise that there are things I should not have done."

"A man more than worthy of filling my boots."

"He's a show pony, he's a prima donna. Cork may have talent but he does have anattitude problem."

"The man has not played for a long time. He has no idea what sort of person I am."

Comments from Dominic Cork (1997), Ian Botham (1994), Geoff Boycott and Cork again (both 1997). All from the newly reissued, delightfully pertinent A Century of Great Cricket Quotes by David Hopps. Now, has he changed?

Man in the middle

No player can have been treated with such cavalier disdain by England's hierarchy as the Warwickshire stock left-arm spinner and gritty batsman Ashley Giles. Picked in 30-odd one-day squads he has played a mere five times. Oddly, unforgivably, he did not play a match on last winter's tour to southern Africa. Giles remained upbeat but has been overlooked completely for this summer's triangular one-day tournament. Last week he scored a century to ensure Warwickshire's progress in the NatWest Trophy and followed this up with 98 when they were deep in trouble at 39 for 6 in the Championship.

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