Trials of the waiting game
Monday 29 May 1995
Wells in particular must have thought, having been picked at the age of 33 and with his A team experience, that he would be a good bet to play. They made him wait, all right, until yesterday.
When I first walked into an England dressing-room, for the Lord's Test in 1983 against New Zealand, I was pretty certain I would be in the eleven that took the field. I had been picked as the spinner following an injury to Phil Edmonds. We batted first and I was able to sit on the balcony for the first hour and take everything in.
In some respects it was all a bit of a let down. lt seemed just like joining any other team: school, second XI, county first team, or whatever. But there were plenty of characters lurking, as I later discovered (although Chris Tavare, who said nothing, wasn't exactly the life and soul). There was no safety when Botham was awake. Fine when he was sleeping, but a real menace otherwise.
With the 'Godfather' presence of Illingworth around, I think the current England dressing-room might struggle to achieve the same 'release' of tension that we managed. Some players might be a bit in awe of the chairman.
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The Northamptonshire dressing-room remained very up-beat last Saturday, despite the fact that the team had been skittled out for 59 against Surrey in our second innings, leaving the task of defending a target of 200 to win the match. You cannot let a bad batting performance prey on the mind in first-class cricket. There was lots of positive thinking.
In the end we won by nine runs, with David Capel taking four wickets. Between innings it was decided that Kevin Curran should take the new ball ahead of Capel, but with Surrey at 50 without loss after eight overs, he got his chance and seemed intent on drawing attention to a captaincy error of judgment. Another inspired piece of man-management by AJ Lamb (or so he told me).
Anil Kumble, our new overseas signing to replace Curtly Ambrose this year, proved again what a great asset he is turning out to be. In the match, he bowled a lot of overs without conceding many runs - 29 off nearly 22 overs in the second innings. Surrey players said after the game that he is very difficult to get away. Throw in the seven wickets Kumble took in the match and you have a very strong showing. lt can be difficult for an overseas player to settle, but he is having no problems.
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Lara-less Warwickshire may have turned the corner after a slowish start. A cheeky win at Durham in the last round of county championship games is a good sign that the holders are coming good again.
Warwickshire are already out of the B & H and have been disappointing to say the least in the Sunday League, both of them competitions which they won last season, but there was never any chance they would repeat their three-trophy haul this season. Some team will match it - just as someone will top Lara's 501- but it's not likely to be for some time.
In the county championship, Warwickshire have undoubtedly missed Lara - he scores so quickly they were always on the attack last season - but most county players would argue they have missed their top bowler, Tim Munton, at least as much. With 81 first-class wickets in 1994, he was many people's player of the year. He has yet to bowl a ball in 1995 after a back operation.
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To add to their disappointment at losing to Warwickshire at their new ground at Chester-le-Street, Durham had their strip for the Sunday League game reported to the TCCB.
Chris Balderstone, an old Leicestershire playing colleague of mine who is now an umpire, was in charge for the Sunday fixture (and the championship game) and said he had no choice. The bounce was very variable, with Wayne Larkins out off a glove from a ball by Dermot Reeve. The two sides scored only 262 runs between them in the one-day game.
Those 22 yards are obviously all-important. Improving ground facilities for both players and spectators is commendable - Hampshire also plan to move to a new venue - but you cannot hurry a wicket. I don't know what weather they have had to put up with in Durham, but I hope they have not gone too early in starting first-class fixtures at Chester-le-Street.
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