On the Front Foot: Time to fly the flag for a really champion competition


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The Independent Online

The County Championship (remember it) will reach its climax this week. In both divisions it has been a fascinating and close competition.

Sadly, the competition no longer has the heft that it once did. Lip service is paid to the scores, coverage is hard to come by. BBC Radio does its best via the excellent Kevin Howells, who sometimes appears as if he is on a one-broadcaster mission to convince the world of its virtues.

The pennant could go to one of three counties and if Durham are said to be the best team, Warwickshire could easily pip them, leaving Lancashire still awaiting their first title since 1934. They can take heart from Boston Red Sox, who had to wait 86 years between 1918 and 2004 to win a baseball World Series. By that reckoning, Lancashire would become champions again in 2020, by which time, it is to be hoped, Old Trafford will be refurbished and once more a theatre of dreams.

The race for promotion from Division Two is equally excitingwith Surrey seeking to edge out the longtime front-runners Northamptonshire.

There will not be an outpouring of jubilation nationwide if this happens. Surrey, presumably desperate to justify their outlay on what amounts to transfers, made another signing with four matches left.

Pragyan Ojha, the India left-arm spinner, was recruited. He has made an immediate impact, taking 6 for 8 in 16 overs in a crucial win against Northants. It was a registration that was against the spirit if not the letter of the regulations. And the Brown Hatters wonder why membership of the ABS brigade continues to flourish. Anyone But Surrey, that is.

A load of balls!

There seemedone false note in last week's compelling television documentary, Bin Laden: Shoot to Kill. It was revealed that cricket played a part in hunting him down .

Suspicions were aroused about the enclave in Abbottabad when kids playing cricket outside hit their ball over the wall. Each time they went to retrieve it, instead of being handed the ball they were given money to replace it. Cricket balls were shown being stockpiled. Maybe the kids played with these, maybe not. Street cricket in Pakistan is the home of tape ball cricket. A tennis ball is wrapped with white tape, which makes it heavier and helps it to swing.

On two tours of Pakistan and others to the subcontinent OTFF has never seen a street game being played with a normal cricket ball. Maybe Bin Laden's money helped the kids to fund them.

Here's looking for a bowler

So far as is known, Tony Allcock, the superb former bowls player and now head of Bowls England, has no aspirations to be chairman of England's cricket selectors. But you never know.

In a radical departure from the norm, Cricket New Zealand has just appointed Kim Littlejohn as its new selection manager. He is giving up as manager of the Australian bowls team.

Shocking pink

Unlike most revolutions, it may be played out in silence. Tomorrow, the first first-class cricket match to be played under lights in England will take place. It is between Kent and Glamorgan at Canterbury.

A Monday in mid-September may not prove the ideal timing for a night pink-ball game. Fuller Pilch, the great early 19th century batsman, whose grave is in nearby St Gregory's Church, may be turning in it.