Cricketer's Diary: Brighter in the shades

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The Independent Online
THURSDAY

Stockton. Summer has finally made it to our North-east icebox, so the sunglasses can at least come in handy for something other than Blues Brothers impersonations. First popularised on the tennis court by Agassi and Co, collections of iridescent shades can now be found in most county dressing- rooms, and with good reason.

Ian Botham has never been without his for the last couple of seasons and I can vouch for their value in spite of making some fielders look like Darth Vader. The lenses combat bright sunlight and there is even a pair that enhance definition and colour on dull, overcast days - making Stockton seem more like Sydney. If umpires wore them they would be far less likely to offer the batsmen the chance to go off for bad light.

They do not give 360-degree vision, though, so would not have saved the umpire, Barry Dudleston, from being felled by a stray throw while checking a run-out. Dudleston put his enforced lay-off to good use, however. With all the talk of left-handers being the answer to Shane Warne's leg-spin, he put together a team of cackhanders from all the cricketers he played with or against: Edrich, Fredericks, Pollock, C Lloyd, Gower, Border, Sobers, Marsh, Hadlee, Wasim Akram and Statham. Not a bad team to play for your life, is it?

FRIDAY

Desmond Haynes does not go along with Rod Marsh's assessment that all county bowlers are 'pie throwers'. He reckons it's harder making runs here than anywhere in the world. He was speaking after receiving something of a battering at Bath from the man he believes is now the fastest bowler in the world (and he should know, having faced them all in the last 12 months). Unfortunately from England's point of view, the gangling tearaway, Adrianus van Troost, is a Dutchman.

Whatever Chris Lewis was throwing at the Aussies they devoured it greedily, as female readers of the Sun may have done of Lewis's jockstrap-clad derriere on page 3. A Worcestershire player provocatively taped the picture to Botham's dressing-room peg before he arrived today. His response is not printable.

SATURDAY

Gig in Botham's barn by Pip Beatnik and the Spurts (Andy Fothergill on lead vocals, Paul Parker on slide guitar, Graeme Fowler on drums, me on keyboards) drowned out by animated chatter round the barbecue and rustling of a large lime tree. We'll have to play smaller venues in future.

SUNDAY

Bowled last over today with Worcestershire requiring 10. We won. Consequently have discovered what is a county cricketer's biggest motivation - the relief of the dressing-room after a nerve-racking job well done. The butterflies in the stomach are suddenly replaced by a huge surge of satisfaction. It's a unique feeling.

MONDAY

As opposed to the dejection and emptiness that must have consumed Graeme Hick when someone told him Graham Gooch was on the line this morning. You only get a call if you're dropped. He took it gallantly and was soon rushing out with jugs of water and spare helmets when his county captain was pinned by a bouncer. Maybe his problem is he's too nice, but sparing him the pressure will do him good. Wonder what odds you'd get on him scoring 100 hundreds before he's 30.

His replacement, Mark Lathwell, seems more allergic to medication (he developed a rash after taking pills to counter an insect bite) than to Aussie- type sledging. Last year a top-edged hook off Botham resulted in a torrent of abuse from the bowler along the lines of: 'You'd better sort that problem out, sonny, or the Aussies will have you for breakfast.' Lathwell deposited the next delivery into the ladies' pavilion.

TUESDAY

Went to check on The Oval pitch for our match there on Thursday. Because second XI games start on Wednesdays, captains have to work out which pie throwers will be needed for the first team two days early. It's never easy reading a wicket on the morning of a match, never mind 48 hours beforehand. If I get it wrong, I think attending the team reception 40 floors up the Telecom tower this weekend will be risky.

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