Lifetime of achievement in 24 seasons

CRICKET DIARY
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The Independent Online
AFTER 24 seasons of professional cricket Mike Gatting retires today. Like all those who begin as raw youths he can only have dreamt of how his career might turn out. Here are some of his formative landmarks.

l Gatting made his debut for Middlesex against Worcestershire in 1975 when he was 22 days past his 18th birthday. He made 10 and was dismissed by Ted Helmsley, who provided him with his first catch later in the match.

l His batting position in that game was at number five, which is the same as he occupied in his final appearance against Derbyshire at Derby this week.

l In his third and final match of 1975 he came up against Gloucestershire and was dismissed in both innings by the left-arm spin of David Graveney, who is now his co- selector of the England team.

l When Gatting played Essex for the first time the following summer he was bowled by Graham Gooch, who is now his other co-selector.

l His first half-century came against Northamptonshire in May 1976, a match which also brought him his first wicket, that of the Pakistani Test batsman Mushtaq Mohammad, whom he had caught by Mike Brearley.

l But he had to wait somewhat longer for his maiden first-class hundred. It came in his 78th innings and when he made 103 not out against Yorkshire in July 1978.

l In his very next innings, against Derbyshire, he scored another. But to keep things in perspective, he had already notched his first pair by then, against Essex, that May.

l By contrast his first Test hundred took him a mere 54 innings, coming against India in December 1984. He obviously liked them too because four innings later he got a double-hundred.

l He had first played Test cricket, having been selected as a boyish all-rounder, presumably on captain Brearley's recommendation, for the tour of India and New Zealand in 1977-78.

l His England debut was in a one-day international on that trip, the scores of which Wisden did not think important enough to print in full. Gatting was run out for 17.

l Three weeks later he played his first Test at the age of 20 years and seven months old.

l He was one of a record-equalling six lbw victims in the first innings and was out to a googly from the leg- spinner Abdul Qadir.

l That was embarrassing but probably not as embarrassing as the conventional, hugely turning and series turning leg-spinner which was Shane Warne's first ball in Test cricket in England in 1993. It was two days before Gatting's 36th birthday, pitched a mile outside leg stump and took the off.

l Grossly unfair allegations have been made about his weight over the years. But... in the first Cricketer's Who's Who of 1979 he was 13st 8lb and in the latest he was 15st 7lb.

l The trademark beard first appeared in 1981 and has never gone away.

l Though first selected as an all-rounder - he took a total of 30 wickets when he went on a Young England tour of West Indies - he took only four Test wickets, the first of which was the highly prized one of Zaheer Abbas.

IN A match report last week your diarist managed to say that Lancashire shared the Championship title with Middlesex. They did no such thing, as Chris Sladen from Woodstock pointed out. They were equal with Surrey. Middlesex were joint Champions in the previous year (so it was confusion over brackets, you see) with Yorkshire.

In 1949, Yorkshire came from behind to win their last match against Glamorgan at Newport, catching Middlesex on the line. In 1950 Surrey had to win their final match to be joint top with Lancashire. They duly did this against - as this year - Leicestershire who then, chides Mr Sladen, "were almost as much of a joke as Northants".

Surrey won one more game than Lancashire that summer. Today that would have made them Champions. Both seasons, incidentally, were gripping but the climax was reached at end of August when the last matches were played. The end of August seems a long time ago.

THE former world champion racing driver Damon Hill has bought a mansion in the Hampshire village of Clanfield. There, they are not concerned with his attributes as a tough of the track. His new home is only a mile from Broadhalfpenny Down, the cradle of cricket where the men of Hambledon strutted their stuff in the mid and late 18th Century. They would like it if Damon took a variation on his usual manner of going into a spin.

BOOK MARK

"Get back to the hotel. Stare into space. Pick up today's newspaper and get slight nagging feeling that the date on top of the page should mean something. February 14, February fourt... Oh, Christ! It's Valentine's Day. Frantic fumbling for the phone and chaotic pushing of buttons. After several abortive attempts at dialling direct to England I finally succeed. Tone of voice at other end not encouraging. 'Oh, hello, Philip. I was wondering when you might get around to ringing'."

From the wry Postcards From the Beach, a diary of England's tour of West Indies last winter, published this summer. It is by Phil Tufnell, talking to a droll ghostwriter; it captures his cricketing character perfectly and is in the top echelon of this type of volume. Pity that Tuffers's England days look to be behind him.

SILLY POINT

A PIECE of porcelain depicting Ian Botham has been launched by a firm in the Potteries. It is described as the Ian Botham Character Jug, costs pounds 49.95 and is said by Lawleys of Stoke to be selling well. This is despite the fact that, unless you were told, you might have trouble recognising the great all-rounder. "We got approval from him and his wife passed it as well," said a company spokeswoman. "It's very difficult getting an exact likeness but it's meant simply to depict him at a stage in his life." Some may think that the Botham jug looks more like Ian Chappell. But also in the frame is former England captain C Aubrey Smith, who led the team in the inaugural Test against South Africa in 1889. C Aubrey was later knighted and became a Hollywood star. Botham's Hollywood career may be one thing, the knighthood quite another.

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