Cricketer's Diary: Lord's in lady trouble

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LORD'S is much maligned because of its formality, its indifferent public facilities, its quaint rules. If you're a man though, it promotes affection. Having played there for 12 years it's easy to become blase about the austerity of the Long Room, the palatial nature of the refurbished dressing-rooms with their brass fittings and plush seating, or the enquiring stare of the members as you walk out to bat.

My favourite place at Lord's is not Nancy's dining-room or the Bollinger bar, but the Printroom hidden away under the grandstand. Here there are mementos of the great matches played at headquarters in the form of old scoresheets signed by the players. Vince Miller may not be a household name but he is Lord's longest- serving employee, first handling the letter presses in the days of Compton and Edrich, and is a mine of information.

Last year the room that reeks of ink and machine oil produced 170,000 scorecards, each one meticulously handset by the assistants, Chas and Dave. The cards are updated three times a day, a process which has continued probably since the days of John Lillywhite and his portable printing tent in the 1840s. On non-match days the presses churn out tickets, passes, circulars, menus and programmes by the thousand as the commercial arm of the MCC grows longer.

Lord's is moving ahead, slowly. There are more eating points, better loos and organised tours of the pavilion and other exhibits - some of the spectators included. There is talk of staging a baseball match which will advance the number of sports performed at Lord's to nine, the others being lacrosse, hockey, tennis, boxing, football, real tennis and squash. Old habits died hard though, and women are still not allowed in the pavilion during a match. Which caused a problem when Durham arrived with Sheila Job, their physio.

A series of phone calls were necessary for her to gain admittance, and once she reached the relative sanctity of the dressing-room it was difficult for her to leave. She was told she was not permitted on the field at any time, but was soon summoned by Ian Botham to treat a damaged finger. 'Hey, women can't go on there,' a flustered steward shouted as she hurried down the pavilion steps, while startled members sat agog and mumbled 'Whatever happened to the British Empire?'

WITH another five-wicket haul at Leicester yesterday, David Millns has bowled himself into serious contention for the fifth Test. He is fast, accurate and ripe for plucking. A former miner who was signed from Nottinghamshire, he has the strength to be genuinely quick at Test level, but needs to develop his stamina. Most importantly, he gets in close to the stumps and swings the ball away so he would be in Fred Trueman's team anyway. Since the middle of last season he has made immense strides, and attributes the improvement in his action to the hours Ken Higgs spent in the nets watching him bowl at one stump.

Ironically, it was an umpire who had the most profound influence. As Millns completed an over off his long, curving run, the former pace bowler Allan Jones asked him why he didn't come in straight. He has heeded this advice ever since, with staggering results not only for the team but for the slip fielders too. The Leicester players are on a tenner a catch - almost as much as their daily meal allowance giving rise to the new local motto 'Cling for your supper'.

WALKING out to bat for Durham at Lord's on Saturday I was applauded all the way to the wicket by spectators and players. It made the hairs on the back of my neck (there aren't any on my head) stand on end, until I realised that the Middlesex supporters were obviously more pleased to see me this year than they were last. Having survived Phil Tufnell's wiles for half an hour, I was confronted by the pacemen. 'Come on Nellie, stick it up their noses,' the left-arm spinner urged. The warmth, then the chill of an English summer's day.

Simon Hughes, of Durham, composed his column while still feeling utterly disorientated in the visitors' dressing-room at Lord's.