On the Front Foot: Meaningless matches could put domestic game in a right fix

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The Independent Online

What excitement there has been this week at the news that no matches in English domestic cricket have been fixed. It has been caused by the revelations that there might have been an attempt to fix them. Two senior county players have been approached by apparently nefarious characters and offered undisclosed sums to affect the outcome of matches. In each case they terminated the discussion early on and reported the contact. This has created a kerfuffle. While the names of the players have been let slip, as these things are, they wish to remain anonymous in case of possible reprisals from gambling syndicates with which they have never had any involvement. Several journalistic man-hours have been spent wondering whether to name the innocent men. A sense of perspective, as always when the F-word is mentioned, has been missing. There was much more tampering with games in the days of three-day cricket, when captains colluded on a certain amount of joke bowling to ensure a certain target was set in a certain time. Whatever else those matches were, they were not genuine sporting contests. There is no evidence at all that betting markets in the subcontinent or anywhere else have been affected by loads of money being gambled on Twenty20 matches. To a man, the great and the good of English cricket have been lining up to say how vigilance must be eternal while, apart from the players approached but unnamed, every other cricketer has insisted that he has never been approached to tinker with a match nor heard any talk of it. What the administrators might profitably (in the moral rather than monetary sense) do is examine their Twenty20 schedules. There are an unfeasible amount of games this summer – 151 compared to the 45 of the small but perfectly formed tournament sprung upon an unsuspecting world in 2003 – which means that there is a greater likelihood of meaningless matches on which no league placing depends. Meaningless matches, of course, expose themselves to being rigged. Ah well, on with the motley.

Double trouble for bowlers

Jonathan Trott's epic innings against Bangladesh at Lord's was the 283rd double-hundred in Test matches and the 45th by an England batsman. Of the total, 86 have been scored since 2000, which is a comment on pitches, bowling and frequency of matches. England have contributed only six of them. Make your own comments.

Players are No 1, not No 6

The great Twenty20 season begins in England on Tuesday. It will dominate our lives for the next six weeks (well, that, and another sporting event) but the sense that it is all too much will not be easily eroded. Still, the England and Wales Cricket Board are determined to enter into the spirit. On Friday they trotted out 20 things to look out for. Top of the list was: the players. T20 fans, the ECB must presume, need to be assured that they exist.

Switching our attention

Welcome once more to 'What Is A Googly?', the best of all those books which attempt to explain the intricacies of cricket, as if to an American. For some reason there has been a litany of such manuals during the past few years, but Rob Eastaway's 'What Is...' remains a minor classic. The new edition – the first was published in 1992 – embraces recent terminology (reverse swing, switch hit) and is also updated in other areas, adding 'Slumdog Millionaire' to its five films featuring cricket. Thankfully, it retains its foreword written by the great Ted Dexter and its scorecard from a proper match so the uninitiated may see. The match in question was the First Test between Australia and England in Perth in 1979 and while it might have been replaced, no other card contains the dismissal line: Lillee c Willey b Dilley.