Lord's Diary: MCC crack down to bring home the bacon and egg

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MCC might not be the club they once were (and thank the Lord for that, sir, say some) but they remain extremely proprietorial about their colours. They go to considerable lengths to ensure non-members cannot lay their hands on apparel in the famous old bacon-and-egg combination.

Membership cards must be presented in the Lord's shop to buy, say, a panama hat with a band in the club colours. Wives (or, indeed, since 1998, husbands) of members may not easily purchase presents of, for example, a sweater with orange and yellow trim for their loved ones.

Thus determined to preserve their rights, MCC have recently delivered a severe ticking-off to the mail-order firm Essentials. Among the items in their jazzy catalogue was a pair of MCC socks.

The socks are still for sale, according to Jane Hudson of Essentials, but without the MCC connotation. It remains to be seen if their popularity remains.

But MCC choose their targets. A few years ago, they declined a row with JK Rowling. One of the houses at Hogwarts School has a tie which bears an uncanny resemblance to bacon and egg.

ON PARADE IN MAY

This Test match is the earliest ever played in England, following as it does the latest in 2005. The previous earliest was the match against Zimbabwe in 2002, which started on 16 May.

Test matches in May are a modern recreation. From 1909, when England played Australia at Edgbaston starting on 29 May, there were no Tests in the year's fifth month until 1962 when the first against Pakistan, also at Edgbaston, began on its last day. This is the first summer in which two Tests will be completed by the end of May.

NO LIMIT FOR SKY

Sky's promotional campaign after acquiring the live rights for English Tests has been easily the most expensive in cricket history. No exact figures are being divulged (except "several millions") but they are letting it be known that they spent double what Channel 4 did in 2002, that station's costliest promotional year.

They are also reluctant to reveal how many more satellite dishes they have sold ("lots of different things are in play when people decide to buy" is the official line). But the promotion, with Andrew Flintoff at its centre, will evolve over the summer and early winter.

Flintoff apart, the campaign is also pushing the point that four former England captains - David Gower, Ian Botham, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain - are heading the commentary team. It will be fascinating to discover if, by the end of the summer, their words of wisdom carry as much weight as those of the new cartoon analysts, Willow and Stumpy, who are threatening to become the Ant and Dec of sports coverage.

DISSING THE DISH MAN

There was a frisky confrontation at the Vodafone Awards dinner last week. It featured, in the satellite corner, Giles Clarke, chairman of Somerset who negotiated the Sky deal for the ECB, and, in the terrestrial corner, Matthew Engel, editor of Wisden, who has said the damage caused by the deal will be incalculable.

Engel also described Clarke as a gibberer, to which Clarke took animated exception when the two men met for the first time (introduced, unfortunately, by your diarist) after a convivial dinner. Engel will shortly travel to Taunton to resume the discussion.

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