Cricketer's Diary: Cold tea warmed by stout

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The Independent Online
THURSDAY

Championship match v Hampshire, Stockton-on-Tees. One of the most northerly first-class venues and don't you know it. Miserable arctic conditions. I am still bowling in three shirts, sweatshirt and two sweaters, and it's mid-May. After wicketless opening spell, signal for hot tea on boundary. In two minutes it is stone cold. Cannot believe people are sitting here watching us on a pitch described by one player as 'rolled snot'. Mood further depressed by report that footballing colleagues at Middlesbrough were awarded a pounds 74,110 bonus despite the club being relegated from the Premier League. That is more than we would get if we won the Championship and the NatWest Trophy. At least four-day cricket allows you time to enjoy the company of the oppo. Gabbling at roughly the same speed as he bowls, Malcolm Marshall regales us with tales of West Indian supremacy over bottles of Mackeson. Taking a glass of water to a helmetless Viv Richards who had been felled first ball by Rodney Hogg - 'He bowling real quick' - a dazed Richards sneered at Marshall: 'Where you goin' with that rass-hole glass?' and poured the water away with disdain. 'Next ball bouncer, rapid', says Marshall. 'Viv hook it into Bay 36 at the MCG, 10 rows back. Man, he is the greatest.'

FRIDAY

Other matches seem to be progressing in pleasant conditions. In the North- east there have been four inches of rain and eight inches of snow on the hills in the past 24 hours.

SATURDAY

Enjoyable viewing of FA Cup final rudely interrupted by umpires Barrie Meyer and Vanburn Holder announcing that play can begin at 4.15. Have they no heart? Well you couldn't accuse good old Vanny of that - he bowled so many overs for Worcester in the 1970s his legs buckled outwards. He'd never stop a pig in an alley. Apparently on the equivalent Saturday a few years ago Hampshire were dismissed for 120 in a Benson and Hedges zonal match, but then Gloucestershire were all out for 60. On this occasion, in most unpalatable conditions, David Gower makes 50. He is a funny mixture - disarmingly shy in conversation, almost a loner, yet rises to the challenge of a difficult wicket. His determination for an England recall was emphasised by excellent shot selection, exquisite timing and the decision not to walk when he glanced a catch to leg slip. Well, everyone does it nowadays.

SUNDAY

Arrived at 10.30am to the sight of Robin Smith in our dressing-room. Encountered Smith again later, running down the wicket at me wielding three and a half pounds of Gray Nichols with a four-leafed clover taped to the back. The straight-drive he hit grazed my right arm before I'd moved, then cannoned into the boundary. Two inches to the left and my shoulder would have gone with it. Bowling at someone with this power, I'm the one who needs the four-leafed clover. Another powerful hitter, Nottinghamshire's Greg Mike, blocked the last ball at Lord's despite requiring a six for victory, but he has repaid his county's faith with a string of useful scores, confounding his old nickname of 'Binary' Mike, so given because he was always getting nought or one.

MONDAY

Championship match abandoned at 10.30am, largely through lack of interest. Durham took one bonus point. The way prize money's worked out, we've spent four days earning the equivalent of a Mars bar each.

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