The England captain, Nasser Hussain, will defy the wishes of the England and Wales Cricket Board this evening when he plays in Britain's first game of international indoor cricket at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Although nobody at the ECB has yet come out and criticised Hussain, inside Lord's certain parties must be seething that he has agreed to play in these two 30-over contests – the second is tomorrow – just two weeks before England leave for Australia.
Through captaining the British side that takes on the Rest of the World, Hussain has put himself in a position where, other than financially, he has nothing to gain. On several occasions the England captain has questioned the amount of cricket his players are asked to play, but by agreeing to take part in this event he has not only reduced his period of rest but also increased the chances of picking up an injury which would have a catastrophic effect on England's hopes of regaining the Ashes.
Hussain will be joined in the Principality by four of his Ashes squad and will take comfort from the fact that John Crawley, James Foster, Robert Key and Simon Jones will be as keen as their captain to come back across the Severn Bridge with their bodies intact. Also representing Britain are the likes of Alistair Brown, Dominic Cork, Adam Hollioake and Robin Smith as well as the local favourites, Robert Croft and Matthew Maynard.
Competing against them for the £50,000 winner-takes-all prize-money is an impressive array of talent. Captaining the Rest of the World is the New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming, and joining him are Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Anwar and Azhar Mahmood from Pakistan, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahele Jayawardene and Aravinda de Silva from Sri Lanka as well as Courtney Walsh from the West Indies.
In the case of De Silva, it may well be one of the last opportunities to see the great Sri Lankan batsman play within these shores. The 36-year-old, who is the world's longest-serving current international player, yesterday announced his retirement from Test cricket, although he will still make himself available for next year's one-day World Cup.
Under lights and with the roof shut it should be quite an evening, especially as British cricket for once does not have to worry about rain stopping play. But this exciting new venture is not being viewed as a one-off novelty by its organisers.
"What we are trying to do is establish the format of indoor cricket in this country," said Philip Pride, the event organiser. "We feel it has both domestic and international potential. Over the next couple of years we will see more games of this type being played."
Cardiff, however, is not the first city to stage indoor cricket. The Colonial Stadium in Melbourne and the Skydome in Toronto have successfully used their roofs in the past. The two matches to be played are on an artificial pitch – until the art of producing drop-in pitches is perfected – and are 30 overs per side. Each match will be divided into four 15-over segments.
There are plenty of other rule changes, too, some of which will allow you to score extra runs for hitting the ball into certain areas of the ground. However, the one that may appeal most to the England captain is that of being able to substitute a player if his performance is not up to scratch. This could be one he would like to use when the more serious stuff starts later this month.
* Somerset have approached the former West Indies fast bowler Nixon McLean about becoming their second overseas player next summer.
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