Apparently working on the belief that if the first essential of an England selector is to be thick-skinned, the second most important requirement is for the cricketing public to be thick-headed, Ted Dexter and Keith Fletcher had asked those of us gathered in the Lord's Banqueting Suite to swallow 'old age' as the reason for David Gower's absence from the list of England's 16 winter tourists.
While the most of the audience were attempting to retrieve their lower jaws from somewhere close to the floorboards, the first journalist to recover his composure essayed the following enquiry to Lord Ted. 'Would you care to comment on the absence of a left-hander in the top order batting?'
Dexter, having expected a bouncer, gratefully seized on this gentle half-volley. 'We do have a left-hander in the top order batting. Neil Fairbrother.' The journalist paused for effect, before adding, with all the sarcasm he could muster: 'I'm terribly sorry. I meant a Test left-hander.' Dexter's expression then altered to that of a batsman who has no need to look round to know that all three stumps have been plucked out of the ground.
In his second innings, against the same bowler, Dexter decided it might be wiser to surrender the strike to the incoming team manager. 'Can you tell me why, having averaged 70 runs per wicket in our last series against India, you felt the need to sacrifice Jack Russell at the expense of what you regard as a more accomplished batsman?'.
Fletcher replied that the objective had not simply been to pick a side to beat India, but that the selectors were also looking ahead to the following series against Australia. Another pause to re-arrange expression for maximum incredulity. 'Oh, I see. Wonderful. So you've already ruled out Russell for next summer as well.' At this point, the journalist took his sweater with figures of 2 for 0 from two balls.
At opposing ends of the palatability scale, the two most memorable on-the- field moments of last summer were (a) Aqib Javed and Javed Miandad haranguing umpire Roy Palmer in the Headingley Test match, and (b) the unbearable tension leading up to Wasim Akram's winning hit in the Lord's Test.
However, it was the more familiar sight of Akram with the ball that conjures up the memory of a single delivery that can scarcely have been bettered, nor more crucially timed, in the history of international cricket. The ball that bowled Allan Lamb in the World Cup final was so remarkable that he must have wondered how it was possible. Later, of course, Lamb was to give us the benefit of his opinion.
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