Old Trafford Diary: Roll up, roll up! The TV rights fight is about to begin!

This is obviously the time of year - high summer - when cricket must take a back seat to the Olympic Games and the start of Premiership football. Sometimes it feels less a back seat than one somewhere up in the gods.

This is obviously the time of year - high summer - when cricket must take a back seat to the Olympic Games and the start of Premiership football. Sometimes it feels less a back seat than one somewhere up in the gods.

But it would be a mistake to suppose that the great game is a poor, undernourished or neglected relation. Grounds all over England have been full all summer, television audiences have reached record levels, and the feelgood factor is high.

This is especially heartening considering what is going on in the background: preliminary discussion for the next batch of television rights. "There is huge interest, and I have had discussions with channels who have no background in cricket coverage and have never covered cricket," said Giles Clarke. Now, there is reason to suppose that Clarke would say that wouldn't he, since he is the millionaire entrepreneur who is chairman of Somerset, the recently installed chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board's marketing committee, and is leading the TV-rights negotiations.

But he was bullish to the point of serenity at Old Trafford and adamant that the new television contract will be worth more than the last. "People want cricket, television wants cricket." Nor is he making any promises that international cricket will automatically have a live place on terrestrial television after the present contract expires at the end of next year.

Clarke said that he and we will know where we shall be watching our future televised cricket by the end of this year. Apart from internationals, it will be intriguing to find out the place of Twenty20 and whether the ECB decide to get greedy by demanding too much of the golden goose.

Wot, no bowlers?

An honours board has been unveiled at Old Trafford bearing the names of the players who have scored 100 or taken five wickets in an innings in a Test. Astonishingly, no bowler has appeared since 1998 when Allan Donald took 6 for 98, though there have been 14 centuries.

The ground is alone in this. All the other English Test grounds have witnessed both feats, The Oval having seen seven five-fors in the last six years, Edgbaston and Headingley nine, Trent Bridge 10, Lord's 15 and the Riverside one.

The most surprising aspect of the board is a name not on it. Don Bradman is absent because he never made a century in Manchester. Indeed his top score in three matches was 30 not out and his average 27. Needless to say he scored Test hundreds at the other nine grounds he played on.

What Fletcher wants...

The Domestic Structure Review Group met last Wednesday. It had before it a blank sheet, previous ideas such as merging the Championship and the one-day league having been laughed out of the county chairmen's court. The newly reconvened DSRG were given a well-received presentation by the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, who gave them the news they wanted to hear. He requires the 18 counties to give him the players for an England team, which goes against some current thinking determined to reduce the number, but in the present climate what Fletcher says probably goes.

My best 69, by Boycs

Geoff Boycott is hearteningly back to his robust, contentious best, as was witnessed by the Diary's work-experience reporter on the spot, Josh Pedley. Boycs was trenchantly recalling a Championship match at Lord's which Yorkshire won by 69 runs after he scored 69 in the first innings. His point was that his knock had made precisely the difference. His facts were dead right. And this was a match played in July, 1986.

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