Cricketer's Diary: England's hospital corner

Simon Hughes@simon_hughes__
Tuesday 22 June 1993 23:02
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THURSDAY

Colwyn Bay: An odd place for a county match considering it's a four- hour drive for most of the home team (Glamorgan), never mind the away one. Can't identify the spectators with any particular county - they seem to speak in a hybrid lingo which is Scouse, Potteries and Welsh rolled into one. One of them seemed to have lent their bed sheets to the ground for use as a sightscreen.

However, it is one of the attractions of county cricket that you get to places like this, and are obliged to repel awestruck locals from infiltrating the sanctity of the dressing-room for autographs. A fawning public is better than no public at all. Therein lies the answer for all those disillusioned with England's performances. Go and watch county cricket. There is bags of talent to appreciate and the whole gamut of British cuisine from the inevitable mushy pea in Gateshead to fresh wild salmon in Wales.

Viv Richards is certainly worth watching anyway. He plays straighter these days, betraying a slight neurosis for a top edge into the face. At 41, he's still eagle-eyed enough to dispatch a frothing Waqar Younis to all parts last week. He could easily play on for longer, but Glamorgan have decided on an overseas bowler from now on.

Which leads on to the perennial question, where are all England's fast bowlers? The answer is - in hospital, at some time or other. Here's a quick list of those that have suffered crippling injuries in the last 10 years: Foster, Fraser, Cowans, Botham, Lawrence, Dilley, Small, Jarvis, Ilott, Pick, Millns, Igglesden, Thomas, Bicknell.

Only one express, Devon Malcolm, has survived the ordeal through a combination of fitness and sympathetic handling. Let's get him into the team before he goes bust.

FRIDAY

Lord's. The view of the game from the top of the Mound Stand is the best in the country, side on to the action so batting looks deceptively easy. Certainly the Australians were playing it with a stick of rhubarb, which prompted various debenture holders to vacate their seats in a search for other forms of enlightenment, including spying four naked women in the ladies' toilets. Others were more radical: 'I've taken several England supporters to the bridges over the Thames already,' one taxi driver said. 'Blackfriars is the best, it's the highest.'

SUNDAY

Inexplicable Durham collapse to 47 for 8. On flattish pitch. Coachloads of supporters looking on in dismay. One told me: 'The trouble with you lot, lad, is you're not knocking your bats in.' On that subject more and more of the top pros are opting for sticks made by Millichamp and Hall. If you see a star player with a blank bat he's either using an M & H, or hasn't been paid by his sponsor, or probably both.

MONDAY

A 250-mile journey from North Wales to Trowbridge, not enhanced by being behind a herd of sheep in Snowdonia or listening to England's capitulation on the radio. All the captaincy contenders made runs but Gooch stymied their campaigns by staying on. What we need now is some different bowlers and a pitch like our own back yard - a nice little green seamer. There's no 25-point penalty for a doctored pitch in Test cricket.

TUESDAY

In pastoral Wiltshire playing against a collection of bricklayers, teachers and landscape architects. After Botham was out, he was approached by his tabloid ghost writer with a notepad. 'You'll only need a postage stamp,' I said. 'That may be so,' Botham replied, 'but I get paid 10 times more for this than you do for writing your drivel.' He buys the Independent by the way.

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