On the Front Foot: A level of cricket where England would be glad to follow on


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The Independent Online

The final of the ninth Under-19 World Cup was due to be played overnight.

It was between India and Australia in Townsville, Queensland, and the surest thing about it is that it will have little bearing on the World Cup final itself in, say, seven years' time, when many of those taking part will be in their pomp.

England have a representative in the final, but only in the form of one of the umpires, Richard Illingworth. The team were knocked out in the quarter-finals, hammered by South Africa, and that after being swept aside by Australia in the group stages. It was expected that England might do better in this tournament than at any time since 1998, when they won it.

They took a squad of gnarled old pros — these things are relative in Under-19 terms. All of those beaten in the quarters had played county cricket at first-class, one-day or Twenty20 level.

Australia took another route. Unbeaten on their way to the final, they had seven players who so far have only played age-group cricket. In any given under-19 tournament, only two or three can be expected to go on to play senior international cricket. England's class of '98, the subject of a riveting little book called Following On by David Tossell, did better than most. It contained Graeme Swann, Robert Key, Owais Shah and Chris Schofield, all of whom played Test cricket (one still is, of course), as well as Steve Peters, Paul Franks and Graham Napier, all of whom are still plying their county trade.

This year's team may go on to achieve great things but their fifth- place finish — Sam Wood of Nottinghamshire scored a hundred in the match against West Indies which clinched it — was still a disappointment.

Farewell to Will

So, farewell to Will Jefferson. He retired as a professional cricketer yesterday at the age of 31, succumbing to a chronic hip condition.

Jefferson never quite achieved the great things expected of him when he was a young batsman at Essex. Perhaps his greatest moment was the steepling six he hit in a super-over of the Twenty20 Cup semi-final last year which ensured Leicestershire's progress and their place in the Champions League.

Jefferson also played a significant role in the match which launched Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara on to a grander stage. The week before the climactic match in the 2005 Ashes, Essex played Australia at Chelmsford with Cook (214) and Bopara (135) sharing a second-wicket stand of 270. But it was Jefferson who helped to launch the assault, blazing 64 in an opening stand of 140 with Cook.

What really set him apart, of course, was his sheer size. Jefferson is 6ft 10in tall, the tallest-ever first-class batsman.

Now it's KP the TV pundit

As the Pietersen Affair rumbles on, England's troubled star batsman is already making plans for the future. His appearance as a television pundit on ESPN Star Sports during the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka next month might seem to show he knows the writing is on the England dressing-room wall.

But Pietersen made the deal after his initial announcement to quit all limited-overs cricket earlier this summer. He has since unretired but is still omitted from the England squad. The ECB are concerned about what he might or might not say.

They will be monitoring carefully.