Kent pride hurt by the 'prejudice'

Cricket Diary
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One-man stand

For David Follett, still a novice at 27, advice was swift and wise after his match-winning eight for 22 at Lord's. "The lads told me to enjoy it and remember it when nothing goes right," said the Middlesex seamer who destroyed Durham, admitting that the movement seemed beyond his control. "Funny thing is, I haven't been for a pint all season but I managed a couple on Sunday night and look what happened . . ."

Regional prejudices have always been at the heart of disputes about England cricket teams. Northerners grudgingly suspect there is a deep-seated conspiracy against them, Southerners nonchalantly assume they have men in abundance who are capable of doing the job, Midlanders fall between two stools.

Was there not just a hint of such grievance in a recent observation from the Kent batsman, Graham Cowdrey? Speaking not for himself but for his chums, he said: "I am convinced that the England selectors do not know Kent are a first-class county."

And when Craig White was picked for England upon Raymond Illingworth becoming chairman of selectors could you not detect a feeling in the Home Counties that it was purely because he played for Yorkshire? White himself has admitted he became paranoid enough to think he was in the team only because Illingworth wanted him.

Here we go again. The first England team of the new season will be announced this morning. The hottest new tip, at least, may satisfy all factions: Ronnie Irani was born and bred in Lancashire and now plays for Essex.

Indeed, those who automatically presume that a northern chairman will select northern players no matter where he watches cricket can find support in that example. Five Lancastrians have represented England under Illy's chairmanship. Not to mention two Yorkshire players as well as two Yorkshiremen playing elsewhere.

Such figures may encourage those eager to seek out regional bias but they are not, unfortunately, conclusive. Illy's sides have also involved five Middlesex players and three each from Essex, Surrey and Worcestershire. He has completely ignored claimants from four counties: Durham, Glamorgan, Leicester and Somerset.

If Illingworth is suspected of being a pro-northerner, his predecessor in the job was frequently felt to favour the South. During Ted Dexter's five years as chairman he picked seven Essex players and six each from Middlesex and Northants. But Ted's teams at some time contained representatives of all 18 counties.

As for Kent being ignored, Cowdrey is correct. In the past seven years only two players from the county have been picked, Alan Igglesden and Martin McCague. Leicestershire have had only two players - David Gower and Chris Lewis - chosen in that period, which began with the loss of the Ashes in 1989 and has gone downhill ever since.

Mind you, it could all be swings and roundabouts. Back in 1981 Kent provided five for the squad of 12 in a single Test match. Expect them to attract selectorial attention this summer.

OF all the infernal regulations necessary for the governance of the first-class game none is likely to cause umpires more consternation than calculating how many overs are to be bowled in a day. Leg before decisions are simple by comparison, since in the event of confusion the umpire can fall back on the old advice, "if in doubt, out".

The overs figure starts out each day as 104 (too many, you can hear the players say) and is reduced by interruptions for rain and the start of a new innings. When it rains an over is deducted from the total for each three and a half minutes.

It becomes more arithmetically complex when a new innings begins. Then, having deducted two overs for the 10-minute gap between innings, "the number of overs to be bowled shall be calculated at the rate of one over for each full 3.5 minutes . . . and the time for close of play shall be rescheduled accordingly."

Thus, at Southampton the other day Hampshire began their second innings with 45 overs left, which took close of play from 6.30pm to 6.43. Essex bowled the required amount by 6.40 but play continued until the new close time. Had the minimum overs not been completed play would have gone on beyond 6.43. "Whichever is the later," is the general rule from Lord's.

A FURTHER setback in the advance of the third umpire. From the square leg camera in the B & H Cup tie between Gloucestershire and Hampshire on Tuesday, Adrian Aymes was obviously out. Despite protests from the Gloucestershire wicketkeeper Jack Russell, the batsmen had to go, for the camera does not lie.

But from the angle behind the bowler's arm, which the third umpire apparently forgot to examine, it was also clear that Russell did not have the ball in his hands on breaking the stumps. Hampshire subsequently lost. Technology, of course, is what you make of it. The TCCB are investigating and will dwell on the inconsistency of a third umpire being in use only at the match being televised, which does not a level playing field make.

THE B & H Cup quarter-finals are blessed with the rarity of appearances by Gloucestershire and Glamorgan, the competition's least successful sides. The Welsh county have been there seven times before but not for six years and they have reached only one previous semi-final. Gloucestershire are in their seventh quarter-finals but have not progressed further since 1977.