Cricketer's Diary: A barren land for seamers

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The Independent Online
WEDNESDAY

Considering starting a campaign to Save Our Seamers (SOS) following publication of the first-class averages. Of the top 20 bowlers, nine are spinners, and we've had a moist, chilly summer so far. The reason is that most counties are adhering to orders from the top to keep four-day wickets dry and barren. This is a dangerous ploy - we are a race of grisly trundlers because of the nature of most of our pitches and this is jeopardising our traditional skills. In addition, the TCCB has withdrawn all the Dukes balls which have a decent seam and develop a smooth shine. The leather on the Reader is crinkled and will not polish. Batting averages as high as ever. In the words of the Kent captain Mark Benson, 'batting is much easier now than it was say four years ago. Ordinary players make 1,500 runs a season and never look in much trouble.'

Returned to Darlington from London to find the clouds building up and a temperature of 8C. Like Lancashire, Durham will quite likely never win the Championship because of the prevailing weather. Essex, on the other hand, must be the driest county in England.

THURSDAY

SOS campaign temporarily suspended as Durham are bowled out for 160 by the gangling Alan Igglesden

(6 for 38). He's a most unlikely looking bowler with a jerky run-up and an action like a machine that needs oiling. He is 6ft 5in though and hard to pick up; and one of the best ball polishers in the game - his trousers are a terrible mess by the end of a spell.

Meanwhile, take Ian Botham to the local infirmary for examination of the knee his son, Liam, damaged in the nets last month. Standing ovation from octogenarians in X-ray department when he enters. He can't go anywhere without adulation - even his critics are really ardent admirers, and tabloid journalists are scared of vitriol for fear of legal reprisals. Botham's attitude to the knockers echoes Dr Johnson's - 'A fly, sir, may sting a horse and make him wince: but one is but an insect, the other a horse still.'

FRIDAY

On a personal note, am rather perturbed to discover that I haven't yet taken a first-class wicket this summer, whereas Paul Parker's son James already has 47 for his prep school, Mowden.

SATURDAY

Enthusiastic presence of our new coach Dean Jones instigating kamikaze practice routines can't prevent Durham being beaten by an innings after lunch on the third day. At least the prospect of playing compulsory pairs cricket (similar to double- wicket) is avoided. Instead there is a middle practice for the vanquished team in which 15-year-old Liam Botham, watched proudly by his father, figures prominently. He already takes size 11 shoes and has ample talent. The dream of father and son playing together in the same team is dashed by the news that he is to play 2nd XI matches for Hampshire later in the year. 'I don't like big clubs,' he said. Just steer clear of Robin Smith's bats then, Liam.

SUNDAY

After today, am convinced that seam bowlers should be added to the list of endangered species. With only two men allowed on the boundary in the first 15 overs, batting teams are starting to go berserk. You can't bowl down the leg side, wide outside off stump or above shoulder height. Batsmen can therefore predict roughly where the ball will be, go forth and plunder. It is a fatuous rule encouraging sloggers and fragmenting a Sunday innings into three parts - the first 15 overs, the middle 30 and the last five.

Kent have virtually the entire team padded up to cover each eventuality. In the long term there are two clear possibilities: scores of more than 400 and electronic feeders to replace the bowlers.

MONDAY

Test side announced, Igglesden deserves his chance for his persistence. He does have an alarming habit of standing on boundary ropes and breaking his ankle. Keep him in the slips, Goochie. Pleased to see Gatting back, too. His fame knows no bounds - his face now features on the new 20 franc note.

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