A match for the MCC at Lord's. The batsmen come and go, each very tentative when pushing open the dressing-room door. Mike Gatting is in the physio's, where tiny slivers of glass are scattered about his gruesome gash. In the next room John Emburey is dishing out pairs of gaudy sunglasses to grateful Middlesex players. Cricketers will wear anything if they're free. At lunch, various spectators wander on to the playing area, as they are permitted to do this year. The announcer says: 'Will those members of the public on the field please make sure they vacate it in good time for the resumption of play . . . It is a ground regulation of MCC that no one is allowed on the playing area at any time.'
First Championship match. Drove up to Manchester feeling optimistic - it is a new season and the countryside looks verdant and fresh. Old Trafford wicket looks as if it won't last one day, never mind four. Green and rutted in the middle, bare at the ends. I tell captain it will be a minefield and I fancy a bowl. Two hours later, Durham are 120 for 0 and I am 12th man. At least at Old Trafford a 12th man's job is easy. Ron Spriggs, an amiable septuagenarian from the Wirral, has been the resident dressing-room attendant these last 10 years and never stops ferrying goodies. These include tins of assorted biscuits, bacon sarnies, filled baps and players' pints after the match (Botham orders a bottle of Beaujolais). Because of the biromaniacs in the cricket world, he also has to provide an endless supply of pens, as well as repairing damaged equipment, washing your kit or checking the local weather forecast. His wife Joyce runs the club shop, which takes around pounds 10,000 some Sundays. Lancashire owe a substantial debt to the Spriggs.
After three days of the first round of Championship matches, Parkinson's Law - 'Work expands to fill the time allowed for its completion' - seems to apply at Old Trafford, Lord's and Chelmsford, where teams are pottering along at two and a half runs an over. Declaration bowling seems imminent on Monday.
Day begins inauspiciously when Botham's son Liam, batting in the nets, unleashes huge drive straight into father's knee. 'That's the last time I'm coming into the nets,' winces the great man, obviously forgetting it's only his third appearance this decade. Our stomachs have been thrown into confusion by today's new competition. Breakfast at 10.15, first ball at 12, lunch at 3.10pm. Sorely tempted to order packet of cashew nuts at two o'clock from vendor on boundary. Also noticed that in spite of the new colours and rules, most of the crowd looked glum, as if they'd rather have been at home sampling a Lancashire hotpot. At least the names on our backs were a help to our new overseas player, Anderson Cummins, who only arrived yesterday and doesn't know anybody. Names too small to read from boundary, incidentally, making the idea a bit pointless.
Clearly only Sussex showed any real initiative by sending in a hitter (Franklyn Stephenson) to profit from the restriction of boundary fielders in the first 15 overs. In most cases teams spent 50 overs getting the same score they would have got in 40. They obviously thought that at Lord's, where the pavilion was almost deserted, while the BBC's coverage consisted only of two three-minute reports. We should be playing 25 overs a side, starting at 4.0pm - a two and a half hour package which would fit neatly into TV schedules.
To add insult to the injury of their team losing the match, the Durham supporters' coach was burgled as it sat parked outside the ground, directly opposite the main police station.
Rain for two hours. In the past rummy or brag whiled away the blank hours in the dressing room, now it's the myriad offerings of a Sega megadrive. Eventually lose Championship match, so obviously six rounds with a computer-enhanced Evander Holyfield hasn't put us in the right frame of mind.Reuse content