Fishing Lines: Duty calls on a modest hero

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The Independent Online
AMID all the ignominy of England's recent cricket performances, I may have found the man to save the day. As a 15-year-old, he scored a record 237 on his first match at Lord's. With more than 100 first-class games behind him, he has an average of more than 40. A former Oxford captain, he has faced Australia's fastest bowlers and best spinners with equanimity.

Now some may argue that at 72, Tony Pawson is getting just a little past his best. After all, when he played for the MCC against South Africa, he was batting with Denis Compton, and the Australian bowlers he met were Lindwall, Johnson and Miller during the 1948 Ashes tour.

But at least Pawson is still winning. He was a member of the England fly-fishing team that won the world championships in 1982, and has been a key figure in the team's successes since. He has just returned from British Columbia, where Drennan Team England won the title again by catching almost twice as many fish as second-placed Poland.

There is another point in his favour as the England selectors pore over their Wisdens. Pawson, from Winchester, is just back home after playing a key part in England's victory in the Commonwealth Championships, so he would be immediately available. All he does at the moment is fish.

But let's record the details of England's triumph first. After all, there have been precious few England successes to record during the past months. In six three-hour sessions, they totalled 260 points, with Poland second on 320 and Italy third on 327. Wales were fourth with 337, Scotland ninth and Ireland 16th.

Individually, Russell Owen of Wales was first; but for England, Jeremy Lucas was third, John Lindsey took seventh and Chris Ogborne was 11th. Every time the event has been held on lakes, England have won by a substantial margin - and Pawson has been there, either fishing or advising.

He has just recorded his angling adventures in Two Game Fishermen*, which he has written with his son John, a member of the England team and world champion in 1988. It is heavily weighted with fishing anecdotes and mentions little about Pawson senior's other sporting achievements, such as being the only person in the past 50 years to have played county cricket and first division football, for Charlton, and representing Britain as a winger in the 1952 Olympics. He also won Amateur Cup medals in 1951 and 1953 for Pegasus (the combined Oxford-Cambridge team).

Dad's contribution is a series of self-deprecating fishing adventures from Tasmania to Norway, but these reveal that he's still capable of a long hike to find good fishing, and standing up to his waist for hours in icy water. So while he would probably not be as quick between the wickets, he would obviously be capable of playing a long innings. And his silver hair should fool the Aussie bowlers. The only problem might be persuading him to give up fishing for five whole days.

* Two Game Fishermen (Methuen, pounds 16.99)