Childs, at 45 the oldest county cricketer still playing, has been an automatic choice for the team since Norman Gifford stopped wheeling away eight years ago. But last week he announced his retirement after 22 years, 10 with Gloucestershire, 12 with Essex.
The sole qualification for the Ancients' First Class XI is merely to be one of the 14 oldest cricketers still performing regularly in the county game. For some time it has been possible for the selectors, picking from such a squad, to put out a perfectly serviceable side which would give some of the younger bucks a fright.
This summer's cadre, while not over-endowed in the pace bowling department and barely endowed at all in the wicketkeeping department, is nonetheless especially admirable.
It contains nine former Test cricketers and another who played limited-over inter- nationals. The first choice XI is: Graham Gooch (capt, 43), Tim Robinson (37), Bill Athey (38), Mike Gatting (39), Monte Lynch (38), Phil Bainbridge (38); Kevin Curran (36); John Emburey (44); Gordon Parsons (36); Peter Hartley (36); John Childs (45).
Mark Benson (38) is omitted on fitness grounds, having been out of Kent's side with injury all season while Paul Terry (37) and Tim Curtis (36) are deemed simply too young to be in as purely specialist batsman. Athey would keep wicket in this competitive crew. He has not done the job regularly but he has two first-class stumpings to his credit.
A well-balanced outfit, you would perhaps agree, but Terry, released by Hampshire, will also be unavailable next summer. So, too, may Bainbridge and Lynch. It is as well others such as Martyn Moxon (36) and Kim Barnett (36) are waiting in the wings. The latter's leg-spin will go some way towards compensating for the sad loss of a left-arm spinner. Next to Childs in seniority is Raj Maru, who, at 34, is barely out of infancy.
Childs was as upbeat as you might expect for one about to lose his place in such auspicious company. He said he had been mentally preparing for the moment for three seasons, though he probably meant his departure from Essex.
"The last part of my career has almost been a bonus," he said. "I was about ready to leave and go into sign-writing when Essex came in for me. They stuck by me then after I'd had a pretty bad first season which didn't bring many wickets." It brought three in the Championship, to be precise, at 125 each. The next summer, however, Childs returned with a longer run and a modified action, took 85 wickets at 25 and Essex won the title. Two years later he played twice for England and last year took his 1,000th first-class wicket.
"I don't know if there'll be room in the game for an out-and-out specialist like me in the future and I'm not sure finger-spin has a terrific future," he said, which would cause constant headaches for the Ancients' XI.
ON the subject of age it is, of course, received wisdom that limited- overs cricket is a young man's game. This is surely truer of the frenetic whirl of the quaintly named Axa Equity and Law League than of any other competition. Well, perhaps. The Whyte and Mackay Rankings which award points for performances in all types of cricket may demonstrate otherwise.
While all points are added up to decide the overall positions the breakdown of the Axa list shows that of the top 10 batsmen, seven are over 30 and three over 35. Kim Barnett and Tim Robinson (see Ancients' First XI) with 54 points each are headed on Sundays only by 31-year-old Paul Johnson with 55.
MENTION was made here last week of John Carr's prehensile hands in the field. They are safer than that. The imminently retiring Middlesex batsman is one of a rare breed of cricketers who have taken more than a catch per match. Of some 125 England qualified county cricketers still playing who have appeared in more than 100 matches only seven have taken more catches than they have played games. Carr had 232 in 195 at the start of the season. The others are Monte Lynch, Graeme Hick, David Byas, Nasser Hussain, Paul Terry and the short-leg specialist Raj Maru.
BEFORE this summer, Ray Illingworth's tenure as chairman of selectors had excluded players from only four counties for Tests. He has now rectified the omissions. He began with Alan Mullally (Leicestershire), continued with Simon Brown (Durham) and Andrew Caddick (Somerset) and made it a full set of 18 with Robert Croft (Glamorgan).Reuse content