On the Front Foot: No long faces in the Long Room as Fry delivers line and length

Having apparently twittered on Tuesday morning that he had a boring cricket dinner to attend, Stephen Fry brought the Long Room down when he was there.

His speech on cricket and its place in the world was perfectly formed (and, of course, impeccably delivered) and if he was bored, his audience was enlivened. There could have been no more appropriate setting or timing for the delivery of such a statement on the state of affairs: a benefit dinner for the England captain, Andrew Strauss, on the eve of a Test match against Australia in the inner sanctum of the game. Fry (pictured) did not waste the moment. He was naturally amusing – "the time when that magical summer sound comes to our ears and gladdens our old hearts, the welcome sound of leather on Graeme Swann" – but he had profound opinions to make about a game he clearly adores. England's twitterers, Swann and Jimmy Anderson, liked it too and sensed its significance. Like so many lovers of the game, Fry can see it slipping away but he pertinently declared that it has seen threats to its fabric before and survived. The occasion was terrific and Fry was not alone in wowing the audience. Andrew Flintoff – giving not a hint of his intention to retire from Test cricket, which he announced the next day – was equally adroit during a question-and-answer session he shared with Michael Vaughan, Justin Langer and Strauss himself, and again provided evidence that one day he could be the new David "Bumble" Lloyd (not that we want the original to go anywhere yet). One doubt arose, which dare not speak its name, as it does on all these occasions. Why are sportsmen who earn easily more than 10 times the national wage still awarded benefits? It is an outmoded system which needs overhauling.

Treasure trove for the urn

With the vision that has epitomised many of their recent actions (and who could have written that statement 10 years ago?) MCC have produced one of the most evocative books about the Ashes. And there are loads of books about the Ashes about. What makes Bernard Whimpress's history of the great contest outstanding ('The MCC Ashes Treasury', Carlton £30) is not especially the narrative account, though it romps along pleasantly and informatively enough. The club had the wizard wheeze of delving into their archives for Ashes memorabilia, of which they made facsimile copies that have been placed throughout the book. Hence it is possible to see handwritten team sheets from the Oval Test of 1882. And gaze upon Ivo Bligh's thank-you letter for the original bag in which the Ashes urn was placed. And wonder at Plum Warner's grovelling, treacherous letter of apology for Bodyline. This is magnificent use of a treasure store which is seen by so relatively few and much of which is not on public view simply because there is so much of it. More please.

The bard of Cardiff

Still no word from the Ashes poet David Fine but OTFF readers keep contributing. The winning entry will receive a pair of tickets for a key cricket match. A rather telling little effort arrived from Sam Knight in Monmouthshire reflecting on the first Test match to have been held in Wales. Please send your entries to the email address below.

"First Test, second innings.

Strauss plods, Cook nods.

KP pretends, Colly defends.

Prior hashes, Flintoff crashes.

Boycott hisses at near misses.

Anderson drives, England survives."

It's driving them crazy

MCC may have shed a reputation for being gin-and-tonic-guzzling reactionary old buffers and gained one of being enlightened visionaries but they are not necessarily to everyone's liking. Some habits, you see, die hard. Mike Gatting, one of the committee, was assailed by a senior member as he arrived at Lord's the other day. It is a constant bone of contention that the committee park their cars in the ground during Tests, making access to the Coronation Gardens difficult.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering