On the Front Foot: Neutral Tests here to stay, so anyone fancy India-Pakistan?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England appear to be in it for the long haul with Pakistan. Plans are already being made for two more neutral Test matches in this country next summer.

Although the matches between Pakistan and Australia in the past fortnight have hardly been played before capacity crowds, the feeling is that the country without a home deserves support. There is a strong and rather noble feeling at the ECB that it would be simply wrong to end the experiment after one summer. The trouble is that there may not be a queue to stage the matches – though that might depend on the opposition – and there will hardly be space in the calendar. England are scheduled to play seven home Tests next summer, three against Sri Lanka, starting in May, four against India beginning in July. It is probable that one or the other will be asked also to play Pakistan. If India could be persuaded, that would probably lead to a stampede for tickets. Nobody, however, should hold their breath. If it was Sri Lanka, takers for the game might be non-existent.

MCC, sponsors of this summer's neutral matches, would be extremely unlikely to be involved again, and since Yorkshire have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds on the match at Headingley, other clubs would be wary. Fitting an additional series into the calendar would also be difficult, and nine Tests (and the associated one-dayers) in an English summer might be considered to be too many. But the will to help is there and Pakistan are grateful for it.

Imran's a Khan-do guy

Imran Khan delivered a wonderful address last week for his Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's. It was charming, lucid and amusing, all 30 minutes of it spoken without a note in sight. Imran spoke of the possible demise of Test cricket, of the possible extinction of fast bowling and much else besides. What, unfortunately, he did not mention was Pakistan's place in the world. It was felt Imran might have a grand plan for restoring cricket in the country, but if he has he is plotting it behind closed doors.

Butt Aussies still moaning

At last, it can be explained why there were two men of the match in the First Test between Pakistan and Australia at Lord's. The Aussies whinged. When Salman Butt was chosen by MCC as the recipient of the award for his 63 and 92, there was consternation in the away dressing-room. Instead of taking it on the chin they made a fuss and MCC, not wishing to spoil what had been a joyous occasion, decided that there should be a man of the match from both sides. So it was that Simon Katich, for scoring 80 and 83 and being on the winning side, was hurriedly presented with a memento.

Greenway cycles along

One of the most maturely constructed innings of the summer so far was seen at Lord's last Tuesday. It was played by Lydia Greenway in the fifth and final one-day match against New Zealand. England, who had already won the series, lost by eight wickets, emphatic enough, but it might have been humiliating without Greenway's contribution. England were 68 for 5 and 101 for 7 but Greenway's carefully planned innings took them to a workable 176. She made 65 from 83 balls with eight fours, punched through the covers or slog-swept, and kept her head throughout. It was crucial groundwork for the trials ahead. Like the men, England have a date in Australia this winter to retain the Ashes.

s.brenkley@ independent.co.uk