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On the Front Foot: Playing the name game has become a Brit complicated


Sponsorship is a complicated business in cricket. It is also multi-faceted. For instance, today is, officially, the fifth day of the fifth Investec Test at The Kia Oval being played between one team backed by Brit Insurance and another by VB, who will both leave the field in the afternoon for a Yorkshire Tea break. Though lunch appears for the moment to be owned by no-one.

Since there is no such thing as a free lunch that state of affairs will probably not last. The existence of the modern professional game depends almost wholly on these corporate links. They may be less important than broadcasting rights, without which there really would be no point in playing, but it all adds to the pot. It also makes it difficult to know what to call the event.

Understandably, firms which have paid to have their names attached want their names attached but it can become pretty cumbersome despite the constant stream of polite reminders. When Alastair Cook, the Brit England captain, came in to deliver a few platitudes to the press pack on Tuesday, he made sure to refer to the match he was about to play in as the Investec Test. Good for him.

Matters should take an interesting turn next year when Brit, which has utterly lost interest in its four-year deal after the company was restructured last year, is replaced as team sponsor by Waitrose. The fight for attention between the supermarket and Investec, an asset management company with a 10-year-deal should be quite something. The car firm which has ground naming rights at The Oval, is the fourth company to have acquired them.

As with all these things they must be enjoyed while they last. Kia today, gone tomorrow.

Secret world of Wardy

Broadcasting of the game has never been better, though the combined might of Sky and BBC Test Match Special had trouble justifying play on Friday when England took to extremes a Thou Shalt Not Pass approach. The coverage this summer has been ineluctably lifted by the introduction on Sky of the Ashes zone.

Engagingly fronted by Ian Ward it has featured a series of coaching sessions which have explained and illustrated techniques and tactics. Two memorable examples involved Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen (showing a sunny disposition in the media for once) while Andrew Strauss and Nasser Hussain have been constantly involving. It is like being granted access to a secret world.

An every day story

Sales of Surrey CCC On This Day should have soared during the Test. The county's media man, Jon Surtees, set himself the task of finding at least one event from each day of the year to chronicle the club's history. Sometimes he struggled. For instance, the entry for 29 September reads: "All-rounder Grant Elliott, fresh from an underwhelming display for Surrey in the Friends Provident T20, took 4-31 as New Zealand beat England in the Champions Trophy at Johannesburg."

Elliott played nine matches. Surtees' claim that: "The history of Surrey CCC is the history of cricket" may raise a few hackles but in a commercial world it is a labour of love (Pitch Publishing).

Len's golden age of speed

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of England's biggest win against Australia when 22-year-old Len Hutton's world record 364 took them to victory by an innings and 579 runs at The Oval. England scored their 903-7dec at the then more or less regulation 2.7 runs an over, 0.6 runs quicker than they managed three quarters of a century later. Different worlds.