England and Yorkshire did their level best yesterday to insist that Darren Gough's missing Sunday was a storm in a tea cup. If it was then a kettle is coming merrily to boil in the background.
The England fast bowler's future with his native county looks increasingly in doubt despite Yorkshire's assurance yesterday that they were satisfied with his explanation of how he had come to play in a charity match at Chobham in Surrey while Yorkshire were losing their Norwich Union League game to Leicestershire at Scarborough.
Gough's explanation was that it was a last-minute invitation "and I did not want to let them down. I know my body and I knew it would not do any harm. I did not tell Yorkshire or England because it was my own time and we would have gone for a drive anyway.''
This conflicts with Yorkshire coach Wayne Clark's reason for leaving Gough out: "He was ill during the first Test and looked a little jaded so we thought it best for England that he rested over the weekend. A five-hour drive, and back, from his home to Scarborough to bowl nine overs was not the best preparation for a Test match starting the following Thursday.''
After Yorkshire's chief executive Chris Hassell had spoken to Gough and the England coach Duncan Fletcher he said the committee was satisfied. "During his benefit golf day on Friday Darren was invited to bring his family to the charity cricket match on Sunday," Hassell said. "When he arrived he was asked if he would like to bat and made 50 in quick time. He then bowled three overs off a run of two paces. We are satisfied with his explanation and wish him every success in the Test match.''
Cynics, and the correspondents' columns of the Yorkshire Post, suggest there are one or two among the counties' 9,000 members, who will be asking from whom Gough borrowed his gear to play on Sunday. They are still grumbling about his performance in the defeat by Somerset at Leeds in May when he was comprehensively outbowled by Andy Caddick. Nor did Clark, in his reference to Gough's tiredness, mention his bowling figures against Surrey, in the Cheltenham and Gloucester third-round tie at Headingley last week were 0 for 60.
England's most charismatic cricketer had already made several committee members angry with his criticism of the county captain David Byas in his book "Dazzler'', while one report claimed that an entire chapter attacking Byas was ordered to be removed on legal advice.
Gough did not have to submit his book, as a normal county professional would have to do to his county club. As a centrally contracted player to England he did show it for vetting to the England and Wales Cricket Board who waved it through for publication.