AUGUST is for arguments. The time when players' limbs are weary, they lurch in pairs from one cramped hotel bedroom to another, waking up in the morning unsure of the day or the way to the breakfast room. There are injuries, long days in the field, and the cordial early-season atmosphere when each delivery was applauded by the fielding side has degenerated into silence and bickering. The double teapot gesture is all too prevalent, especially if you lose the toss.
The flick of a coin is the age-old method of deciding who goes where at the beginning of a match and it is hard convincing the team that even though you've lost eight in a row, mathematically there is still a 50-50 chance of losing again. The moment of the toss-up is the focal point of any cricket match. Beforehand there is any amount of pushing and prodding at the pitch, car keys pressed into the surface, fingers scraped across it, balls surreptitiously bounced on it, trying to ascertain how this particular strip of turf will behave. The groundsman is sought for his opinion, the weather forecast checked. Committees of players loiter discussing the various permutations.
Half an hour before the game the captains exchange teams. Chris Cowdrey relates the famous time he stood in mid-pitch at Headingley proudly wearing his England blazer, as Viv Richards in shorts and a baseball cap, ran through his team. 'Now let me see,' the West Indies captain mused, 'there's Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Richardson, Logie, Dujon, Marshall . . . you can play who you like.'
The participants have long since retired to tea and bourbons but as the coin goes up you can be sure most will be watching anxiously for a signal from the window.
Irrespective of the conditions, bowlers want their team to bat first, batsmen want to field, thereby delaying the instant of personal performance for a while. Colin Cowdrey had a simple philosophy about winning the toss. Ninety per cent of the time you batted first, the other 10 per cent you contemplated fielding but batted anyway.
CRICKET teams unveil a few interesting nicknames for their players - 'Creepy' (Mark Crawley) and 'Chuck' (Phil Berry) are two of the more imaginative ones - but most are bland and uninspiring.
The most bizarre of all probably belongs to Yorkshire's Peter Hartley, known as 'Daisy'. David Bairstow explains - 'some days- ee does it, some days-ee doesn't.
SURREY have unearthed a bright spark from the unlikely source of Caterham School. Alister Brown is flaying county attacks around with a combination of brazen stroke play and urban bravado.
During his breathtaking 175 against Durham at the weekend he swatted a high bouncer from Ian Botham to the boundary. 'That was a bloody slog,' the bowler grumbled. 'I'm only copying the way my idol plays,' Brown replied with a mixture of cheek and respect.
As he launched one delivery in the direction of Durham Prison, I noticed scaffolding above the jail. 'What's that?' I asked a local. 'They're erecting a platform for the inmates to watch Durham. It's their punishment,' came the reply.
Simon Hughes of Durham composed his column from a sickbed after a culinary mishap in Darlington.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies