On The Front Foot: Grounds for concern as Centurion beats Elizabeth

So to the highveld and Centurion Park, South Africa's newest Test ground.

There, the First Test of the 2009-10 Test series begins on Wednesday. Thus has history been mistreated. There is nothing wrong with Centurion Park, and its grassy banks and areas for braai mean there is a lot right with it. But its presence on the grounds rota means there are two Tests in the north of the country. There are only 30 miles between Centurion and the Wanderers. It means the country's oldest international ground will have no Test.

England should have insisted on playing at Port Elizabeth not only because of tradition, or even because it is such a jolly venue. England have played nine Tests there and lost once, yet they are going to Centurion where they have played in three matches, two of them desultory draws. The other was a win in the only one-innings Test in history 10 years ago, a match that was manipulated by Hansie Cronje. PE has had happy memories from the moment that C Aubrey Smith, the future Hollywood actor, led England to victory there by eight wickets in 1889 in the country's inaugural Test. It will be missed.

French climber is officially mad

High drama in East London yesterday. The England coach Andy Flower and wicketkeeping guru Bruce French, both former wickies, climbed to the top of a floodlight pylon at Buffalo Park. They weren't threatening to jump, nor calling for the resignation of ECB hierarchy. Climbing is French's passion and wherever he goes his ropes go with him. He ascended a nearby crag three days earlier. This sort of behaviour does nothing for the "wicketkeepers are normal" campaign.

Helping hand for umpire Benson

Umpire Mark Benson is having health checks to see if he is fit enough to stand again after walking out of the Adelaide Test between Australia and West Indies. This column sends him every good wish, not only because he is a top umpire who does not deserve to be sacrificed on the altar of the infernal review system. When he stopped playing, Benson was unsure what to do and advice came from this quarter. "You'd be a very good umpire, having been an opening batsman." A letter was dispatched to the ECB there and then and a new career was born.

Red Rose must bloom again

Poor Lancashire are begging for support for their planning application to turn Old Trafford into a glittering arena. They deserve it. This column was there when Brian Statham took 6 for 34 in his last match for Lancs in 1968, stunning Yorkshire in front of a Bank Holiday full house. It has had a place in the heart since. The planning bid must succeed.


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