Cricketer's Diary: A slow rate of Notts

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The Independent Online
LIFE at Trent Bridge has always been a mixture of enterprise and sterility. Ever since William Clarke, the Kerry Packer of the 19th century, established county cricket there in 1840, the ground has been characterised by mostly progressive but occasionally mystifying behaviour.

Clarke didn't pay his players, so they earned money through side bets - many of them had a reputation as small-time crooks. When Clarke left Nottingham to create his touring England XI the ground fell into disuse and all manner of other activities were staged. These included football, archery, and even an annual cricket match between one-legged and one-armed XIs.

The inventiveness continues to this day. There was a display of medieval fighting on Sunday by people dressed up as Robin Hood and Little John, demonstrations on a climbing wall, news items printed on scorecards and Bruce French proposing an abseil down a nearby tower block.

The staidness continues. The sightscreens at the Pavilion End are non-existent. When a request was made to move spectators sitting above the bowler's arm at the Radcliffe Road End (whence many a batsman has failed to sight a Franklyn Stephenson slower ball) there was a committee meeting about it. The request was refused.

The players' dining-room is dual-purpose. On match days you can enjoy a choice of sausage and onions, leek pie or quiche lorraine. Outside the hours of play it doubles as a museum, packed with Nottinghamshire memorabilia.

There's Jessop's bat, Larwood's cap, Hadlee's sunhat, a kangaroo foot, ragged balls offered to batsmen for remarkable batting averages, Arthur Shrewsbury's 1887 testimonial certificate on receipt of a purse of 72 sovereigns. Shrewsbury, the bat-making rival of Gunn and Moore, eventually shot himself during a match in 1903. The game was duly abandoned as a mark of respect.

The web of intrigue surrounding Trent Bridge is maintained this year with the signing of Chris Lewis on a five-year contract for a sum well into six figures, the disappointing early-season performances of a talented team, and the abrupt departure of the manager, John Birch.

Mike Hendrick took over coaching duties in June, and his life has been transformed. Two months ago the former Test bowler spoke dolefully of his inactivity apart from the odd stint commentating for Test Match Special, but now he has his hands well and truly full. A country man reared on the green pastures of the Midlands, he dispels the assumption that seam bowlers deliver deliberate leg-cutters, claiming that he could land the ball on the seam every time but had no idea which way it would move.

Hendrick was an upright cricketer who has brought new levels of discipline to bear on the Nottinghamshire players. They are fined if they arrive unshaven or bring copies of Mayfair, etc, into the dressing-room. And results, other than on Sundays, have improved significantly.

REPLICAS of the coloured strips worn by the World Cup teams have been manufactured under licence in this country and sales have already reached 72,000. Great swathes of Pakistani green and English light blue are sighted at most Sunday League venues while the contented vendor banks his pounds 5 per sale commission.

THE Pakistani tourists are the noisest I have ever encountered. As they make their way round the country the sound of stumps being shattered by express bowling is only exceeded by the chatter of their fielders. Their batsmen, while friendly off the field, are expressive on it. I had the following exchange with Aamir Sohail, who had just top-edged two bouncers in successive overs. Me: 'You jammy sod]' Umpire: 'That's the one (bouncer) for the over.' Sohail: 'Go on, let him bowl another one, then.' Me: 'I don't break the rules.' Sohail: 'What rules?'

Simon Hughes composed his column on the way to facing a wet day at Leicester.

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