Lord's Diary: Not quite the poetry of motion but still graceful

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The Independent Online

A rapt crowd sated on Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell might have been still more enthused had Albert Craig been before them. Who he?

Albert Craig was a Yorkshire rhymester who deserted his wife and children and in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th became a significant feature of the English cricket landscape. Craig sold poems at a penny a time, engaged with the crowds at Lord's and The Oval and at one time was as famous as – and as synonymous with cricket as – W G Grace. He wrote of Grace in one verse: "His finished play of yesterday was truly soul inspiring/When he appeared the people cheered: and mind he's worth admiring."

If not forgotten, he is no longer celebrated. Each day Craig would watch the game and overnight he would bring it to life in verse. Much better than doggerel, though not quite poetry in the strict sense, it captivated and was bought by thousands. And his life and times have been captured exhaustively and evocatively in a book, 'Captain of the Crowd', by Tony Laughton. If he existed today, of course, he would be out on his ear in no time.

Whispers down the ages

There are times when it seems that MCC exist only to ensure they take advantage of any commercial opportunity going (hence their involvement in the formative plans for a new, nine-team, city-based Twenty20 League in England).

Lest we forget, they still care about their pastoral duties to the game at large. Part of this is the excellent audio archive they have established. Former BBC man and prolific cricket author David Rayvern Allen proposed its establishment three years ago and there are now at least 100 interviews in the archive.

Rayvern Allen has recruited fellow interviewers who have spoken to players, commentators and administrators from around the world. It will be a source of cricket history for a million years. In some ways, itis what MCC are for.

Act as a shining example

Chance to Shine (remember them?) have just set up Street Chance. This is about taking cricket to inner-city London, initially 10 boroughs where the implement of choice might be a knife rather than a bat. "We hope we can have a real effect on disaffected youth," said Wasim Khan of Chance to Shine. "We want to engage young people through cricket." They will be there for at least three years.

Normal services resumed

The Army play the Navy at Lord's for the first time in 36 years later this month. It is the centenary match, a one-dayer rather than the three it took in 1908 when Robert Poore, who played three Tests for South Africa, scored 62 for the Army, though not, somewhat bizarrely, T20. Are the services behind the times?