MacLaurin bombshell for game

COUNTY COMMENTARY
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The Independent Online
After all the leaks, all the rumours, this is it: County Commentary has acquired a copy of Lord MacLaurin's blueprint for English cricket, circulated to all county chairmen and not due to be published until tomorrow. It is a 10-part manifesto that looks likely to cause the biggest shake- up the game in this country has ever seen. Here is a summary of what looks set to become known as "MacLaurin's Bombshell":

1 The County Championship: To be divided into nine divisions of two teams each, wherein neither team from the same division shall play the other, excepting Yorkshire and Lancashire. Games to be played over three-and- a-half days using round-robin format and Pratt-Burke scoring method, whereby teams are rewarded for innovative pre-match entertainment. Promotion there shall be, but no relegation, thus encouraging positive cricket without the dreadfulness of football-style professionalism.

2 Umpiring: The umpire's signals shall change in accordance with the following:

A The scoring of a four will now be signified by the raising of two fingers from each hand in the direction of the scorers; for a six a further thrust of a single pair of fingers will follow the initial four-fingered salute.

B When a wide is bowled the umpire, with arms outstretched to either side, will now run around for a duration of no less than 10 seconds impersonating an aeroplane; a no-ball will be represented by an aeroplane crash-landing and a bye with a simple wave of the hand to bowler and wicketkeeper, as in "Goodbye."

C The raised index finger will remain the preferred method of giving a batsman out; however, if in the umpire's opinion the batsman should have "walked, rather than waited, the middle finger may be raised instead. Similarly, in order to discourage indiscriminate appealing, the answer "not out" or the shake of the head may now be accompanied by a shake of the wrist in the bowler's direction, with thumb and forefinger joined to describe a circle.

3 Apparel: All first-class cricket will continue to be played in white clothing, but the batsman's "box" may now be worn outside his trousers. Skirts may be worn, frilly or pleated, but at a length no more than six inches above the knee.

4 Hours of play: Play in all first-class matches shall commence at 10am. The luncheon interval to be extended to two hours, from midday, with the option of a further hour if both captains agree.

Teams to take tea on the outfield, picnic-style, with blankets provided to sit on in the event of dampness. Sandwiches to be limited to two per player, with extra cake for outstanding performers. Rock cake to be mandatory at all first-class grounds; toasted tea-cake to be prohibited. A maximum number of 80 overs to be bowled in a day with stumps drawn at 6.30pm, whichever is the earlier.

5 Pitches: The wicket is to be covered at all times, except during the hours of play (see 4 above).

6 Limited overs cricket: The Sunday League will be played to a revised format on Wednesdays, but will retain the title "Sunday League." In addition to coloured clothing and white balls, the bowler will be accompanied by music of his choice during his run-up, with a popular tune of the day played between overs. When the music stops, fielders must sit down and the last one so to do is "out," in the style of Musical Chairs.

Tip and run will operate during the first 15 overs of an innings, with "six and out" also enforced. The Benson and Hedges Cup and NatWest Trophy to be amalgamated to form the National Hedges Handicap, with runners and riders subject to rigorous doping control. The effect of floodlighting on players' behaviour is to be monitored closely.

7 Team England: Home Test matches shall continue as before but the winter itinerary of the England team to be revised. After 2001, popular holiday destinations such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Maldives are to be incorporated into the touring schedule, with cricket an optional part of the programme. Wives and girlfriends will be welcome, but members of the so-called Barmy Army shall be told to "bugger off."

8 The England and Wales Cricket Board: The ECB will continue to administer the game at all levels. While the views of county chairmen will be duly noted, members and players are to be seen and not heard. England players will continue to contracted to their counties but will not be encouraged to play for them except in an emergency.

9 Overseas players: Foreign nationals will be tolerated, with the limit of one per team remaining in force. However, should any English-qualified player present himself to a captain on the morning of a match, and provided he has all the kit, the foreign player shall be obliged to stand aside and assist the official scorer by updating the "overs bowled" on the scoreboard.

10 The tree at Canterbury: To be removed from the playing area forthwith. It may be quaint, it may be wacky, but it's bloody nonsense to have a tree growing on a ground where professional sport is supposed to be taking place. The tree goes, or I go. Gentlemen, I await your reply...

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