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On the Front Foot: Charm offensive pays off as Cardiff wins over doubters

The first Ashes Test match in Cardiff, the first Test of any kind in the city, has been an unfettered triumph. From before the first ball was bowled – probably the moment when Katherine Jenkins sang in front of the pavilion and shivered our timbers – it has been a splendid event. There remains an argument about whether this game should have been staged at Sophia Gardens as opposed, say, to Trent Bridge or the Riverside – it should not – but nowhere else could have risen better to the occasion. For Paul Russell, the chairman of Glamorgan who has been the driving force, it has been both a source of elation and relief. Russell was always extremely confident that he could make this work and as he will tell you fairly quickly in the conversation you do not make a modest fortune without knowing a thing or two about organisation and efficiency. But there were long, dark nights of the soul before it all came together as if by magic when Russell wondered what the heck he had done. Eventually, senior staff at Glamorgan (the chief executive and the groundsman among them) had to be replaced. The ground is functional rather than an aesthetic treat, but filled with people in the summer sunshine it looked sensational and allied to the charm offensive of the natives it has been perpetually uplifting even for wizened, cantankerous Englishmen. The "new" name of the ground, after a public utility company – which cannot be mentioned because of a clash with the Test match sponsors npower – is pointless. Sophia Gardens it was and always will be. For the affable but resolute Russell, there remains one challenge before he steps down as Glamorgan chairman. He wants to leave them with a decent team again, capable of challenging for honours in place of the present also-rans. Good luck with that. By comparison, building a stadium, staging a great Test and winning over the doubters may be a doddle.

We're not averse to verse

No word yet from David Fine, the self-styled Ashes poet from Derbyshire. OTFF is running its own verse competition throughout the Ashes (bumper prize on its way in late August). Here is a splendid offering from Chris Sladen of Oxfordshire:


May prove tricky;

But Strauss,

Has plenty of nous.

Let us hope that in that clerihew there also resides an accurate prediction. Clerihews, sonnets, limericks, cinquains all welcome at the address at the bottom of the page.

Book's a Sportspage turner

Of all the Ashes-associated books that have wended their way in this direction none is as fascinating as The Ashes Are Here. It is not a narrative (though it almost acts as one) but a catalogue of memorabilia from all 66 series, issued by Sports-pages, the antiquarian book seller. It includes a bat signed by members of the 1905 Australian tourists, priced at £7,500 and a hastily written book, Border's Heroes, based on the 1989 tour, at £15. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

ICC status for island

With the Ashes here and Mohammad Yousuf regaining top spot in the world batting rankings after a hundred in Galle, there came the news the cricket world was waiting to hear from the ICC. Vanuatu has been elevated to associate membership. From a population of 221,000, some 8,000 play cricket on this archipelago of 65 inhabited islands. Will they be playing internationals on each?