Cricketer's Diary: There's garlic in the air

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The Independent Online
Wednesday

WOMEN'S World Cup match at Arundel. Word has got around that the standard is rather good and two former Test players - Sir Colin Cowdrey (whose back garden this is now that he lives with the Duchess of Norfolk) and John Shepherd (Kent and West Indies) - are there taking notes.

John Rupert Troutbeck Barclay - Etonian, ex-Sussex captain and now in charge of the Arundel school of excellence - is also quite impressed, though he does say: 'Gosh, they don't hit it off the square much - it's rather like watching me bat.' To be fair, give a couple of our girls false moustaches and they could probably do a reasonable job for the men's XI.

Notice that the West Indian batswomen are just as confounded by spin as the men (Phil Tufnell claims he only has to bowl 'loopy doopies' to unsettle Richardson and Co) and one of their quickies looks like she is attempting to bowl like Colin Croft.

Thursday

FOUR-DAY game v Sussex at Durham University, rivalling Arundel as the most beautiful ground in the country. When will visitors realise that this city is not a place of slag heaps and old men eating bowls of mushy peas? Having put Sussex in, they are 108 for 0 at lunch, but this outcome is not nearly as embarrassing as the one at Cheltenham, where Courtney Walsh asked Derbyshire to bat and they made 408 for 5 in 80 overs. Fast bowlers always hate having to field first, especially in August when bits of their bodies are starting to fall off. Sometimes when they are given positions of responsibility they go a bit mad, which is why not many of them end up as captain. Sixteen of the 18 current county leaders bat in the first five.

Observing Sussex, I can see why their strict diet, early-to-bed curfew has sent them plummeting down the Championship table. It seems to have been interpreted tonight as 'drink as many pints of Boddington's as you can before 11pm'. They have had a good day today, though. It reminds me of a time when a certain sociable county was struggling and their captain took the team aside. 'Right lads,' he said, 'just remember if you're going to get plastered or chase crumpet do it before midnight.' Really, the message is do what you would normally but be sensible. Joel Garner said he turned in early before his first Gillette Cup final, slept fitfully and bowled like a drain. 'So on the eve of the 1979 World Cup final I stayed up till 3am drinking rum and Coke and took 5 for 20.'

Saturday

GO IN to bat as night-watchman, not a favourite duty. My batting exploits this season have been confined to facing Devon Malcolm, Waqar Younis and now Franklyn Stephenson with the new knacker. Narrowly avoid being decapitated and at the finish of his follow-through can smell garlic on his breath but think twice about enquiring if he enjoyed the pasta for lunch. 'This is the quickest he's bowled all season,' says the short-leg comfortingly. Thanks.

Sunday

'EE MAN, there's been a lot of stotty cap teday,' a spectator remarked on the boundary at Durham. This, it emerged, was a reference to the number of apparent catches which were actually off a bump-ball. Don't think I will ever come to terms with this north-east lingo.

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