On the Front Foot: No rhyme or reason but Sladen verse is just the ticket for Oval

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The Independent Online

And so in this most significant of cricket weeks it is time to announce the winner of the OTFF Ashes Poetry Competition. The victory and indeed the poetry are, of course, the things (ars gratia artis and all that), but the prize may be worth having.

Thanks to the good offices of npower, the sponsors of Test cricket in England, there are two tickets for the fourth day of the final, decisive match at The Oval which begins on Thursday. True, this is a bit of a risk since on their most recent outing in Leeds, England and Australia failed to make the fourth day because of England's incompetence and Australia's efficiency. However, the chances are that by next Sunday the contest will be approaching a pulsating peak and it is just possible that it is the day when the Ashes themselves are decided. The competition's most prodigious entrant, Chris Sladen, tried his hand again:

East is East,

England go West.

Ashes head South.

North comes off best.

Ultimately, it came down to two. This from Philip Borrell:

54 innings and still no duck,

Anderson has some kind of luck,

But when running this week,

He gave his hammie a tweak

Causing Straussie to groan Oh Dear

But it was Sladen, of Oxfordshire, who nudged in front with that clerihew which seems to get to the nub of the whole shenanigans.

Ricky,

May prove tricky;

But Strauss,

Has plenty of nous.

Thanks for the fun. Anybody who cares to argue can of course write to the email address below.

Josh in a class of his own

There is a long way to go from the England School Cricket Association Under-15 XI but equally it is a princely start to a career. Early next month ESCA will play at Lord's against an MCC School's XI. They will be led by Josh Bousfield, a shining star of Barnard Castle Cricket Club in Co Durham, where this column messed up the wicketkeeping duties for many years. It is a triumph for both player and club. Josh, a fast bowler who bats, is the first England player from Barney since Maurice Tremlett, grandfather of Chris, played there while stationed in the town during the Second World War. George Macaulay, the great Yorkshire all-rounder who played eight Tests, was educated at Barnard Castle School. But Josh attends a school which plays no cricket, and might not have taken up the game had it not been for the club's decision to transform its junior section by starting structured coaching a few seasons ago. Their junior teams have done resoundingly well as a result and Josh is testimony to what can be achieved.

Bodyline before Bollywood

Still up north, the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle is paying due homage to this Ashes summer. Each morning until 24 September it is screening the old newsreel, Bodyline – the Third Test from Adelaide. That was the match when it all blew up as England won by 338 runs. Depending on what happens at The Oval, north-east cinema goers might need the footage to cheer them up.

No chance of a King pair

It is to be hoped the economy behaves itself on Tuesday. Mervyn King, the cricket-loving Governor of the Bank of England, will not be on hand to administer the necessary medicine. He will be immersed in different kinds of statistics which he doubtless hopes will have a more upward swing than he has been accustomed to lately. King will captain the Chance to Shine team against a Bradman Foundation XI at New Road, Worcester. King, president of the charity which is winning its campaign to have more cricket played in secondary schools, will have at his disposal, among others, Graeme Hick and Allan Donald (left), cricketers to beat a recession.

s.brenkley@ independent. co.uk

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