On the Front Foot: Aussies in the shires? Now is the Billy Midwinter of our discontent
Sunday 22 March 2009
There have always been Australians in county cricket. They have frequently, like Stuart Clark last week, prompted a fuss. Take Billy Midwinter. WG Grace did. Born in England, Midwinter emigrated to Australia (like Darren Pattinson of more recent vintage, but that is another can of worms). He played for Australia in the first Test match of all in 1877 and became the first bowler to take five wickets in a Test innings in the Aussies' 45-run victory. Later that year, missing Gloucestershire where he was born, he became the county's first professional. But the following summer Australia were touring and Midwinter, offered oodles of cash, agreed to play for them. As they prepared to take on Middlesex at Lord's, WG Grace, the captain of Gloucestershire, stormed the dressing room and kidnapped Midwinter to play in the county's match at The Oval. He stayed awhile and toured Australia with England in 1881-82, playing four Tests. But he changed allegiance again and played another six Tests for Australia. From the 1950s on, there has been a steady flow of Australians in county cricket – the spinners Bruce Dooland and George Tribe among the first, miffed at being overlooked by the Test selectors – and recently it has turned into a flood. Thanks to the polarising acquiescence of counties, five of Australia's team in the Third Test against South Africa have played county cricket, many for several clubs. Clark has played for two counties already. Middlesex will be Phillip Hughes's first, but probably not his last. Loyalty is of no consideration, they are merely professionals being professional. They should all be welcomed as guests, but to suggest they do not hinder the development of English cricketers is folly. Perhaps they should be kidnapped.
Women smash glass ceiling
To the women the spoils. England's participation in the Women's World Cup final in Sydney today is a triumph for the policy of spreading the game. There is still a tendency to disparage women's cricket for lacking skill and power (it is not so long ago that women were barred from long-distance running). But England – and the rest of the world – are beginning to break down boundaries while also striking them. England have hit 92 fours and four sixes in the cup so far and have put the men in the shade. Their success could transform the sport in this country. MBEs all round?
Chanderpaul is recognised
Shiv Chanderpaul returned home this week to a hero's welcome. He lives in Miami rather than Guyana, but is revered in the country. There was a huge fanfare at the airport on his arrival, and his status as the world player of the year, and newly reinstalled as the No 1 batsman, has made him an improbable celebrity. He was awarded the Cacique Crown of Honour, Guyana's third highest award. Deserved higher in some opinions.
England go one-up in ODIs
England's unexpected victory in the first one-day international against West Indies put their balance sheet into credit again. They have now won more matches (241) than they have lost (240). This still demonstrates that historically they have a) not been very good at the short form or b) not taken it seriously. Five other countries – Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, India and West Indies – have far superior win-loss records.
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