Lewry left in land of the swingers

Cricket Diary
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Among the usual battalions of county bowlers who are spoken of somewhat optimistically as possessing Test potential, a few invariably have peculiar rarity value. This is neither as peculiar nor as rare as it was 10 or 20 years ago but these fellows still stand out in front of a sight screen. They bowl left-arm seam and swing.

At present, six of the breed are playing a prominent role in the county game. One of them, Alan Mullally, is in the England side; two others, Paul Taylor and Mark Ilott, have played for England and Ilott is certainly young enough to return; the other three, Simon Brown, Mike Smith and Jason Lewry, have all excited selectorial attention.

The youngest and perhaps least likely of the sextet is Lewry, who joined Sussex only two years ago when he was 23. A professional career had seemed to pass him by. He was an electrical goods salesman and playing club cricket when he was spotted in an invitation game at Arundel Castle. After deciding to take a pay cut to become a cricketer he made a swift impression, and took 47 wickets in 12 matches last summer, almost entirely because of his late, astute inswing.

"I think it's very difficult to bowl left arm without being able to swing the ball into the right-handed batsman," he said. "The trouble is if you can't do that the batsman can probably start leaving five out of six balls because he knows there's no danger."

Of the 32 bowlers who have taken 100 or more Test wickets for England, eight have bowled left-arm spin, none has bowled left-arm seam or swing. (Compare that with Australia who have Alan Davidson and Bruce Reid in their 100-wickets table and might have had Ernie Toshack had his career not been cut short.)

"I always look at other left-handers to see what they're trying to do with the ball," Lewry said, "and I think I compare favourably with them all in England in terms of swing. I'm not fast but I can make them play. A lot of my wickets were lbw or bowled last season."

After being selected for The Rest against England A in a curtain-raiser to this summer, Lewry contracted tonsilitis and has only just regained his place at Sussex. Surprised to take no wickets in the huge win over Durham on his recall - the first time in his career he had failed to take a single wicket in an innings - he took six for 44 to set up victory against Glamorgan last week, the second best figures of his career.

"My first priority has to be to establish myself at Sussex and to get capped," he said. "Until two years ago I used to go to Hove, sit on the Gilligans, have a few beers with my mates and like so many other people there say I could do that. Well, now I'm doing it. David Lloyd told me early in the summer to keep on taking five wickets in an innings. That's what I've got to do."

In the land of swing the left-arm bowler is king as Wasim Akram may be about to demonstrate for Pakistan. Lewry will be watching avidly.

Those desperate enough to follow cricket to watch it on Sky will have noticed a significant change. Charles Colvile, gentlemanly but excitable front man since the satellite channel's early forays into coverage of the game, is appearing less frequently.

Colvile has been relegated to duties at one-day matches. His role in Tests has been assumed by the newcomer, Mark Nicholas, a former captain of Hampshire who has Colvile's affability without the excitability.

What he also has of course is a background as a player. All Sky's Test team now are former players. Not all have Nicholas's articulacy. Nicholas appears slightly embarrassed by his elevation but could hardly turn it down. "Nobody could have helped me more than Charles since I started," he said.

On the day that the Test and County Cricket Board was understandably trumpeting its new four-year deal with the BBC it was instructive to watch the Ceefax teletext service that night.

Anybody worried about the game's decline or its significance in the Beeb's thinking would have been alarmed to see that it did not appear in any of the five sporting headlines. Euro 96 and Wimbledon dominated but on the day of a sublime debut century by an Indian at Lord's, both rugby league in Paris and Michael Moorer's victory over Axel Schulz to win the IBF heavyweight boxing title were also deemed more important.

The NatWest Trophy was largely disappointing on Tuesday. Despite Harry Hall's hundred for Berkshire and George Reiffer's for Scotland it is now five years since a first-class county was beaten by a team of lesser status. Perhaps we should not lose heart in the annual mismatches. When the competition first began in 1963 it took 10 years for there to be an upset.

One-man stand

Saurav Ganguly, the first man to score a hundred at Lord's on his Test debut, had to rectify a few misunderstandings. He was only 23, not 29 as the official tour brochure suggested, and despite reports that he was selected only because Vinod Kambli was omitted for disciplinary reasons, he was not surprised to be here, having already scored 11 first- class centuries. And his name in his native Bengali did not mean one in a hundred, but sweet smell. Indeed.