Cricketer's Diary: England's neglected dynamos

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The Independent Online
NATURALLY, England's performances depress all professional players. None more so than the uncelebrated dynamos of the county game - the hinges of the system - who for 10 years or so have given their all each week without moaning yet rarely earn headlines, gold awards or Test caps. Here is my 1993 Stalwarts XI.

1 Nigel Briers (Leicestershire) a doughty opener of uncomplicated style who does not flinch when seaming ball locates vulnerable areas of body. Slightly sergeant-majorish as captain, but very agile fielder. Particularly high stalwart rating as father was captain and wicketkeeper of local club for 15 years while mother scored.

2 Peter Bowler (Derbyshire) pushes and pokes his way to 1500 runs a season, excellent temperament. Can keep wicket and has been known to bowl spin with either hand. Great team man befitting someone born in Australia.

3 David Ward (Surrey) very physical player - breaks bats just taking guard - when he straight drives bowlers have to perform horizontal ducking techniques. He has had to execute these himself occasionally when keeping wicket to Waqar Younis.

4 Phil Bainbridge (Durham) the ultimate stalwart - bats and bowls all day, fields at short-leg and buys drinks all night. Emits strange Potteries lingo on days off 'Cos kick a bo 'gainst a wo and ed it til it bosses' (let's have a game of football) will probably pass away in mid-over.

5 Mike Watkinson (Lancashire) acomplete all-rounder - can bat with restraint or aggression, bowl fast or off-spin causing origination of the term 'speamer' and fields anywhere. Very witty, but seems to have unfortunately set the trend for the Lancashire team to dress and get their hair cut like Manchester United.

6 Laurie Potter (Leicestershire) should be at Grace Road for a long time to come bearing in mind his dogged contribution on the field and wedlock to chief executive's daughter off it.

7 Keith Brown (Middlesex) - such a solid, dependable sort he is even nicknamed 'Stally'. Used to be picked on to perform the worst jobs - bowl for declarations, slog terrifying pacemen or keep wicket on minefields but performed all with aplomb - still has enough energy to replaster people's kitchens on days off.

8 Alan Warner (Derbyshire) a man of few words reared on the anaemic surfaces of the Birmingham league. Found simliar conditions at Derby and gradually evolved from basic tearaway to canny dobber and gigantic hitter. Excellent one-day cricketer.

9 Tony Pigott (Sussex) one of only five pre-1980 fast bowlers still playing (the others are Gordon Parsons, Malcolm Marshall, Kevin Cooper and myself). 'Lester' has kept going despite a long-held belief that no one in the country could hook - something presumably they taught him at Harrow. Just as competitive on squash courts.

10 Gordon Parsons (Leicestershire). His county seems to have a glut of stalwarts so moved to Warwickshire temporarily in mid-80s where he was awarded county cap while on crutches. Like many old pros can't get the ball to swing nowadays so trying his luck with off-cutters. Will bowl all day.

11 Steve Barwick (Glamorgan). Questionable whether he gets through more overs or pints of bitter during season. A former steel worker, so thinks plying into the wind at Cardiff is a godsend in comparison. Takes exception to being referred to as the ferret of the batting order.

England may or may not fare better against the Australians should they take the field with this committed lot. The bowling would at least be guaranteed to bore the tourists into submission. What gives this team greater credibility is that three were born outside England. Alternatively, the selectors could persuade the International Cricket Council to bring in new laws to help our ailing team. Already the bouncer restrictions have dented the threat posed by the West Indian fast bowlers, and after last summer ball tampering was outlawed. By banning devious use of the wrist in delivery, the effectiveness of all the Indian and Australian bowlers would be immediately reduced to manageable proportions. Most England bowlers would be unaffected.