Heyhoe-Flint defends new MCC chief Marlar over 'sexism' row

In an interview in The Sunday Telegraph with the former England captain Michael Atherton, Marlar, himself a former first-class cricketer, was indignant when he stated: "Did you know that Brighton College are playing girls in their First XI? Girls! I think it's absolutely outrageous."

Even when the interviewer suggested: "What if the girl is good enough to play?" Marlar would have none of it: "The MCC's view is that mixed cricket at adult level doesn't happen. If there's an 18-year-old fast bowler who can bowl at 80mph and he's been brought up properly then he shouldn't want to hurt a lady at any cost." What if a girl bowls at 80mph? "Then, I'd be asking some serious questions about whether she's had a sex change."

But the former England women's cricket captain, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, the first woman member of MCC's committee, yesterday defended Marlar.

Heyhoe-Flint said: "Robin is just being a gentleman... he just has some anxieties about a girl playing in a match which is reaching a tense conclusion and worrying if a male bowler will stick in a short ball."

She did point out that Clare Connor, the captain of England's Ashes-winning women's team, was the first girl to play cricket for the Brighton College First XI.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, Connor's reaction to Marlar's comment employed the adjectives "absurd, old-fashioned and patronising".

Marlar, 74, the former Sunday Times cricket correspondent, has never been fearful of expressing his opinion. The former Sussex off-spinner was once sent in as nightwatchman by the county when he wanted to get away early for a private engagement - he scored six runs in an innings that lasted two balls.

Marlar will undoubtedly make his point frequently in the next 12 months. Stand by for further dust storms.