Less bat and ball, more gel, scrubs and moisturisers

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The Independent Online

Rainy days in the England dressing-room used to be a matter of settling down with a stack of dubious magazines or pulling up a seat at the most promising card school. These days, we are told, any notes changing hands are less likely to be ones bearing the Queen's head than passing on details of where to buy the latest lines in skin care products.

Rainy days in the England dressing-room used to be a matter of settling down with a stack of dubious magazines or pulling up a seat at the most promising card school. These days, we are told, any notes changing hands are less likely to be ones bearing the Queen's head than passing on details of where to buy the latest lines in skin care products.

At least, this is the impression the England and Wales Cricket Board is trying to cultivate as part of yet another initiative aimed at nudging to one side the traditional image of the summer game to accommodate something far more happening and hip.

As part of its drive to "sex up" cricket, the ECB has selected eight leading England men's players plus the captain of the national women's team to be the subject of a unique collection of lifestyle publicity profiles under the banner of "The Hit Squad".

Presented in a press pack that appears to have drawn its inspiration from the stylish movie posters that advertised "Trainspotting", the profiles, accompanied by suitably moody photographs in designer-model poses, reveal the kind of details that will not be found in the pages of Wisdenor Playfair.

They will tell you, for example, that the opening batsman Marcus Trescothick, while not submerging his broken finger in a pot of ice, will apply moisturiser on his skin and Fudge to his hair (the brand of gel also favoured, incidentally, by the England one-day captain, Michael Vaughan, who never brushes his hair, but just "ruffles it up".) And that Simon Jones, the Glamorgan fast bowler who has seen his England career on hold since suffering a knee ligament injury last winter, uses daily cleansing lotions, facial scrubs and moisturiser and showers three times a day.

James Anderson, the 20-year-old Lancashire lad with the red-streaked spiky hair already regarded as a style "legend" by Durham's Paul Collingwood, checks his fashion sense against the men's lifestyle magazines and likes to buy "a pair of shoes for every pair of jeans" while the aforementioned Vaughan, quite the perfect model of the modern English captain, it seems, favours Paul Smith to be seen out in but intriguingly prefers Marks and Spencer and Next for "work" (don't tell Gunn and Moore).

Endearingly, the women's captain, Clare Connor, differs sharply from most of the men in that she "has never had a facial" and is "not very good" at styling her hair, but lest anyone should run away with the impression that England's male cricketers have become a bunch of preening nancy boys there is always Andrew Flintoff.

Thank goodness for Freddie, who proves that real men can play cricket, after all. The reformed fat lad lists "mushy peas with six slices of bread" as his favourite food, has his hair cut (short back and sides) for £3 by Old Trafford's visiting barber, buys his clothes at the sales and trusts the "ladies at the launderette round the corner" to remove the tidemarks from the collar. Asked if he had a skincare regime, he replied: "Er, definitely not."

Yesterday's washout cost the ECB £547,000 in refunded tickets.

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