Extra Cover: A week in cricket

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MAN IN THE MIDDLE

ADRIAN AYMES

(Hampshire)

There have been Chinamen in cricket for quite a while now, but very few Chinese speakers, if any. Adrian Aymes could well be the first. He does not need to order his Chinese takeaways by number. For the last 18 months the Hampshire wicketkeeper has been teaching himself Cantonese.

"In the winter I do a lot of driving," explains Aymes, 33, "and I decided rather than waste the time I would learn something. I found a language course using tapes and over the last 18 months I have been playing them regularly."

The reason for choosing Cantonese is as surprising as the fact that he is now more than reasonably fluent in it. "When I was younger I learned a Chinese martial art wing chun. It is a contact-reflex form.

"When I decided I wanted to learn another language Chinese seemed perfect. It had always seemed rude to me to be referring moves in wing chun without understanding what I was saying.

"I could have opted for Mandarin, but I decided to learn Cantonese because that is the language of the majority of Chinese over here and then they could teach me Gwokyuh which is Mandarin Chinese."

Wing chun has helped his discipline. Aymes lives on a bank of the River Solent. "It backs on to the river," says Aymes, "and part of it is on concrete stilts." He has converted the area between the stilts into a gym and works out there, the aim specifically to keep his body and joints supple.

The effort pays off. You do not have to trust the view of Hampshire supporters that he is the best keeper in the country not playing for England. Umpires are as neutral as you can get and that is their unanimous opinion.

THE TOP TEN

Alec Stewart lords it at Lord's. He is one of England's most prolific scorers in Tests at HQ, where he has amassed 961 in 10 visits for an average of 53.39. At Headingley the average is similarly impressive, 49.25 from nine innings in which he has accrued 394. That includes his superb 170 in the second Test against Pakistan last year, which revealed patience, skill and a tenacity which England had been lacking. It also saw him emerge from what was, by his own high standards, a poor run of Test form in a period when he was beset by family worries.

If England are to regain the lead in the Ashes series Stewart's maiden hundred against the old enemy would be no bad thing. The only time he has come remotely near was in 1991 when he scored 91 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the drawn third Test. And while he has scored 778 runs against them it is at a disappointing 25.93. A nation awaits.

Alec Stewart's

Test hundreds

190 v Pakistan Edgbaston 1992

173 v New Zealand Auckland 1997

170 v Pakistan Headingley 1996

148 v New Zealand Christchurch 1992

143 v West Indies Bridgetown 1994

119 v New Zealand Lord's 1994

118 v West Indies Bridgetown 1994

113* v Sri Lanka Lord's 1991

107 v New Zealand Wellington 1992

101* v Zimbabwe Harare 1996

TERMS OF THE GAME

The Notcher

Scorers have also been called other things. Score originates from the Old Norse skor, to make a notch or mark. Scoring or notching on a tally or wooden stick was used in everyday business during the late Middle Ages. Cricket adopted the system - the first known reference was in 1706 - and every fifth run was cut deeper. The 1809 version of the Laws stated: "If the Striker runs a short Notch, the Umpire must call `No Notch'". The 1820 version still called runs notches.

Horse is off the menu at championship's best caterers

AROUND THE GROUNDS

The Racecourse Ground, Derby

It's a long day sitting around the boundary. Energy is consumed at a fierce old rate watching Devon Malcolm racing in and whipping the opposition out. That is probably why The Racecourse Ground is not a bad place to be. In fact, if reports are to be believed, its catering facilities, specifically Karen's Kabin are the best in the country - no doubt they are krammed with kalories, but who's counting? Home-made pies, bacon butties to die for and then you can appreciate your surroundings.

The horses and jockeys may no longer be there but you can sit back and wallow in a touch of sporting history. Horse racing only ceased there in 1939 and in 1886 the FA Cup final replay between Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion was staged there following the 0-0 draw at Kennington Oval.

As you reach for the rest of that home-made pie it is possible to reflect idly that the first touring side to this country, the Australian Aborigines, played against, and were defeated by, South Derbyshire. In that match there was a singular feat by an ordinary sounding man, four wickets in four balls by John Smith of Clifton, near Ashbourne.

These days the cricket is shut off from the rest of the racecourse, for much of 1975 and all of 1976 the whole place was shut off to cricket.

Cricket had been under threat there for a few years but things finally got back on stream in 1977 and development of the ground took place from 1981.

There are further development plans, currently on the back burner, and as long as the club's movers and shakers allow Karen's Kabin to kontinue supplying kolesterol they kan do what they like.

THE WEEK

AHEAD

Championship leaders Glamorgan travel well. Two of their five victories to date have been away, so there is little reason to assume they will founder against bottom-of-the-table Derbyshire, who go into the match on the back of two innings defeats.

Glamorgan match Derbyshire on the bowling front, with Waqar Younis running into serious form and Darren Thomas and Steve Watkin the ideal support team. Devon Malcolm is always dangerous and Andrew Harris and Phillip DeFreitas have been doing their bit.

Derbyshire are certainly outgunned when it comes to batting. Steve James has 1,000 runs with Hugh Morris and Matthew Maynard are not far behind. Kim Barnett is the only man looking in consistent nick while Chris Adams can be a match-winner, but not this time.

Gloucestershire will be keen to regain the lead and will be eager to welcome Durham, seemingly the Championship's traditional whipping boys, to Cheltenham. They may be without Mike Smith, though.

Essex, having missed out on a chance to take over on top at the weekend, will have kicked themselves back into shape in time for the trip to Worcester where the dangerous Alamgir Sheriyar is in the middle of a hot streak, but Paul Prichard and his men should still prevail.

Top of the form

Most runs and wickets in their last five Championship innings

Bowlers Wkts Last five (most recent on right)

1 Waqar Younis (Glam) 20 7-25 8-17 0-17 3-55 2-40

2 M Smith (Glos) 19 5-23 1-42 3-36 6-47 4-59

3 M Bicknell (Surrey) 17 1-30 4-96 3-24 4-88 5-34

4 A Donald (Warwicks) 17 1-24 4-64 6-55 1-52 5-98

5 K Evans (Notts) 17 4-40 3-115 6-91 2-35 2-20

6 K James (Hants) 17 1-52 2-58 5-44 8-49 1-49

7 D Malcolm (Derbys) 17 4-42 4-91 5-85 0-36 4-102

8 G Rose (Somerset) 17 3-26 5-53 3-82 3-79 3-22

9 P Martin (Lancs) 16 0-23 8-32 5-47 3-61 0-25

Batsmen Runs Last five (most recent on right)

1 A Stewart (Surrey) 412 0; 11; 271*; 32; 98

2 D Lehmann (Yorks) 368 57*; 62; 3; 163*; 86

3 V Wells (Leics) 342 224; 70; 4; 15; 39

4 J Whitaker (Leics) 327 41; 133*; 87; 47; 19

5 S Young (Glos) 327 1; 48; 38; 3; 237

6 J Crawley (Lancs) 321 61; 44; 91; 13; 112

7 S James (Glam) 316 152*; 48; 82*; 8; 26*

8 M Ealham (Kent) 306 20*; 122; 15; 10; 139

9 D Maddy (Leics) 297 103; 58; 94; 24; 18

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