WASIM AKRAM has had a brilliant summer. Eighty-two first-class wickets, bowling over and round the wicket, in-swing and out-swing, bouncers and yorkers. There's hardly anything he's forgotten, except to keep his front foot behind the line. Yesterday he reached a century of no-balls in international matches this summer. It's a statistic that may baffle the dogmatists who claim that a fast bowler should 'just move his mark back a bit'. This isn't necessarily successful. For a start Wasim doesn't seem to have a proper mark - he starts running from wherever he feels like. Worse still, he focuses on the crease as he's running in, meaning his stride pattern automatically adjusts to finish in the same spot regardless of where he starts.
This is a problem afflicting other good bowlers, notably Derek Pringle and Philip Newport, not easily solved. The key is to pace out a run-up carefully then train yourself to fix your eyes on the batsmen's stumps rather than the bowler's. It requires discipline and practice but it works. I used to have no-ball trouble. In around 700 overs this year, I've over-stepped only four times.
WITH the selection of the winter touring squads only a week or so away, here's a guide to the particular qualities of some of the English-qualified players:
Best Forward Defensive: T J Boon (Leicestershire)
Best On Drive: N J Speak (Lancashire)
Best Player of Fast Bowling: P D Bowler (Derbyshire)
Best Player of Spin: P Johnson (Nottinghamshire)
Hardest Hitter: A Fordham (Northamptonshire)
Best Sweeper: D A Reeve (Warwickshire)
Best Reverse Sweeper: M A Roseberry (Middlesex)
Best One-day Batsman: A D Brown (Surrey)
Best Swing Bowler: S Bastien (Glamorgan)
Best Young Spinner: S D Udal (Hampshire)
Most Exaggerated Follow-through:
T A Munton (Warwickshire)
Most Histrionic Bowler: N A Radford (Worcestershire)
Quietest Wicketkeeper: C W Scott (Durham)
Noisiest Wicketkeeper: K J Piper (says 'Come on let's bubble' before every ball) (Warwickshire)
Best Wicketkeeper: K M Krikken (Derbyshire)
Best Slip Fielder: J D R Benson (Leicestershire)
Best Out-fielder: T L Penney (Warwickshire)
Most Fidgety Cricketer: D A Reeve (Warwickshire)
AS three-day county cricket goes through its last throes, it's timely to have a checklist of the old grounds' properties.
Best Batting Wicket: Horsham, Chester-le-Street
Worst batting wicket: Weston-super-Mare
Best outfield: Lord's
Worst showers: Cardiff (floor stone-cold, as is water)
Best lunches: Seaton Carew, Kidderminster (the ladies make a special effort)
Worst lunches: Leicestershire (if you can't smell burning, you know it's salad])
Best scoreboard: The Oval (very fast operators), Worcester (quaint)
Worst scoreboard: Trent Bridge - always puts up bowling figures
EVEN in mid-summer the Worcester ground has a moist, lush appearance, the wicket looks mottled and undulating. This is hardly surprising considering it is a haven for winter water sports. The ground lies in the flood plain of the River Severn, spending four months completely submerged and there is a high-tide water mark four feet above floor level in the Pavilion bar. The original groundsman rode across the outfield and hooked out a 45lb salmon one winter. Wind surfers and masochistic swimmers have enjoyed the calm waters on New Year's Day and the fire brigade have often been recruited to pump out the umpires' room. The smell of damp is everywhere, no wonder the ball swings.
Simon Hughes, of Durham, composed his column well above the water mark in the ICI box at Worcester.
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