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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz