On the Front Foot: Window shuts as Pakistan's neutral Tests bite the dust

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The Independent Online

There will be, it seems, no room at the inn for Pakistan next summer. Despite all the well-meant intentions expressed by the England and Wales Cricket Board that Pakistan must and will be supported, and that home from home will be provided on these shores, it is not about to happen. When the international calendar for 2011 was announced last week, neutral Tests were conspicuous by their absence. England will play seven Tests, three against Sri Lanka, four against India, ridiculously none north of Nottingham, and a total of 12 limited-overs matches. It had been intimated that Pakistan would also be catered for, as they have been this season in two neutral Tests and two Twenty20s. To his eternal credit, Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has espoused their cause throughout this year, regularly insisting that they must be encouraged to play international cricket since their country has become a no-go area, virtually offering an open invitation here. But two harsh truths have emerged. The two Tests in England this summer between Pakistan – as hosts – and Australia – as tourists – were reasonably attended, especially at Lord's, but the lack of Asian support was conspicuous. That was not in the original plan. Nor, in reality, is there calendar space for more international cricket. There have been six Tests in the past seven weeks, all of them involving Pakistan, and that has been too much of a good thing. "There is a little window when there might be room for a couple of one-day internationals but that's all," said Steve Elworthy, the ECB's marketing director. "But in 2012 and 2013 there's no space at all." A noble idea has bitten the dust.

Give Woods a bunch of fives

Something called Fives Cricket is to be launched. Apparently it has derived from the supposition of its South African inventor Dick Woods that what cricket needs is "excitement and tension throughout the game (not just in the closing stages) and to achieve this you must be able to see who is winning NOW!" Each side bats for 50 overs but five overs at a time. The first matches are at Radlett next week when MCC Universities play MCC Young Cricketers. MCC, whose World Cricket Committee heard a presentation from Woods, insists it is not endorsing it but taking a look. Another approach would have been to show Woods the door, giving him a high five as he went.

Hot to Trott

Only 11 England cricketers have reached 1,000 Test runs in fewer innings than Jonathan Trott. Two others, Mike Atherton and Kevin Pietersen, also reached the landmark in their 23rd. One member of the present team, Andrew Strauss, reached four figures in his 19th innings – behind only Herbert Sutcliffe, Wally Hammond and Len Hutton, who remain inviolable.

Wrap Aamer in cotton wool

And when Mohammad Aamer removed Matt Prior in England's first innings of the Fourth Test, he became the youngest player to take 50 wickets in Test cricket. He was 18 years and 135 days old, the previous youngest, Daniel Vettori, having been a year and a day older. All sorts of records now beckon for Aamer, including the youngest to take 100: Kapil Dev was 21 years and 25 days when he had Taslim Arif caught at Kolkata in 1979. (The youngest Englishman to 50, at 22 years and 261 days, was Ian Botham.) But one record above all should serve as a warning. Aamer's growing body has already bowled 2,800 overs, two years younger than any other fast bowler had done so. Wherever they go, Pakistan should not forget a supply of cotton wool balls in which to wrap their young master.