Here’s an old caricature drawing of Patsy Hendren, the former England and Middlesex batsman (and a bit of a leg end, it must be said. 170 first-class hundreds…)
In the beginning was Lordâ€™s. And all around was a formless void, swathed in darkness. And the MCC said: â€œLet there be light,â€ and light appeared. And 5,000 fans saw that the light was good, even though it was only temporary. And the local residents didnâ€™t kick up too much of a fuss. And thus Lordâ€™s took a bold step into the 21st century.
From the distinct lack of glitz on display on Monday night, Itâ€™s immediately clear that night cricket at Lordâ€™s will never enjoy the same raucous atmosphere it does at The Oval. But then again, nor should it. The long overdue experiment will hopefully transform the Lordâ€™s experience into something more thrilling and inclusive whilst retaining its respectful eloquence. Day-night games at Lordâ€™s will feel rather like a garden party to which the whole family is invited. There really is no reason why floodlights should automatically be synonymous with furry mascots and Gwen Stefani.
In times past, England selectors could generally be relied on to make at least one howler a summer. Alan Wells, Aftab Habib and Alan Igglesden are all examples of county makeweights plunged without warning into the limelight and shunted mercilessly and remorselessly back out of it soon after.
Since the central contract era, however, we like to think that the more erratic selectorial decisions have rather been purged; thereâ€™s been the odd hunch thatâ€™s gone wrong (step to the front of the class, Anthony McGrath), but by and large the new slim-line committee has unearthed some cracking talent. Vaughan, Trescothick and Sidebottom certainly wouldnâ€™t have got a look in had they been around a decade earlier. None of this, however, will be much comfort to Ed Joyce.
Joyceâ€™s performances during the CB Series in Australia were solid, excellent in places, and he was by no means the most culpable of Englandâ€™s World Cup donkeys. But he fell victim to the general call for cull after the Caribbean debacle and hasnâ€™t been mentioned in the same breath as the England team since. Joyce wasnâ€™t even selected for the England Lions teams to face Pakistan and India, a privilege granted to such stellar young talent as Alex Gidman. He appears to have fallen silently but ruthlessly from view, like the myriad Mike Smiths and Warren Heggs before him.
Fair enough, you might say. Ed Joyce is no PowerPlay demon, still less middle-overs innovator. But a man who scored two fifties on the biggest one-day stage really deserved better than to be lumped in with the likes of Andrew Strauss (who really did have a stinker in the West Indies, by the way). And besides, Joyce has always been more of a five-day cricketer. He was selected as Marcus Trescothickâ€™s replacement on the Ashes tour, but didnâ€™t get a chance. Now, incomprehensibly, he has been leapfrogged by Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara and, very possibly, Rob Key. Perhaps Joyce might soon be lugging his kit bag back to Dublin in search of an international game.
Joyce hasnâ€™t exactly helped his case with some ho-hum county performances this summer. But his anonymity speaks of a more worrying trend â€“ the tendency to judge Test potential on the basis of one-day form. It happened to Chris Read, Kabir Ali and even Jonathan Trott, who may never be seen in England colours again. Joyce deserves a better fate than these, for on his day he can be one of the most effective batsmen in the country. A bumper start for Middlesex next season might swing him back into contention; on the other hand, perhaps heâ€™d be better off perfecting his reverse sweep this winter instead.
No, this isn’t plea to bring back old money. That’s the total Somerset declared on earlier today. I may have missed the point, but presumably the thinking was to have a crack at Middlesex while the conditions were right and stop the opposition from getting full bowling points. It hasn’t worked in one sense, as Middx are currently 71 for 0. As far as bowling points, perhaps it was very shrewd of their skipper Justin Langer. (If this has already been discussed on The Corridor, then I apologise.)
Ordinarily, I might launch into a rant about cheating Aussies bending the rules, but I happen to be a big fan of Langer, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But it does leave a bad taste in the mouth, not least as one of my fantasy team bowlers was denied the chance of filling his boots! (I also have Langer, who got a duck…)
Is it bad sportsmanship, clever captaincy or even a missed opportunity? What if Caddick had slapped a quick-fire 40? It could have changed the momentum entirely.
I’m surprised Emma, the resident county squirrel, hasn’t picked up on this: an interview with none other than David Nash, the Middlesex wicketkeeper. Good ‘keeper, Nash, should’ve gone on to higher honours (as should’ve Keith Brown, but that’s for another day).
Kev: Iâ€™ve always wondered how did you get the nickname Knocker?
Knocker: When I started my career, just before going out to keep, I would always go to the loo and â€œrelieve myselfâ€, so I became known for always knocking myself off. [Editorâ€™s note: perhaps we should revert to the less original, but also less evocative nickname, â€œNashieâ€]
A game for gentlemen? Believe what you will. Thanks to Patrick for the link.
The dusty MCC and Middlesex traditionalists will have a new song to chant next summer: “‘minda Vaas Vaas Vaas” as they point their finger, football-hooligan style, at Middlesex’s opponents.
Okay, it’s unlikely, but today’s signing of Chaminda Vaas is probably the best news the club has had all season. It has been a forgettable summer for my club – the worst I can remember, albeit only 11 seasons following them.
Paul Weekes is retiring at the end of Middlesex’s match against Kent. He never went on like he perhaps might have – I thought he’d have played one-day cricket in the mid-1990s for England, to be honest – but he was one of the first players I saw at Middlesex, and is a minor cult hero at Lord’s. He could be brilliant to watch just for his unorthodoxy, but could unleash the most elegant cover drives. Good slipper, decent offspinner and a gutsy allround cricketer.
I was never much of an autograph hunter in my youth. Perhaps my Dad instilled it in me, but the only autographs I ever wanted were from people I considered great: Weekes, Sobers, Haynes…err, Gatting. In fact, during a Middlesex game I ran down the steps in the Mound Stand to where Angus Fraser was grazing, at fine-leg, and queued up to get his autograph. In front of me was a portly, middle-aged gentleman who (can’t believe I remember this) had two pairs of glasses: one on top of his head, and the other on his nose. What amazed me, though – I was about 12 at the time – was the book or tome he was holding. In it contained thousands of autographs, not just of cricketers but seemingly anyone able to scrawl their name with a biro. To this day I wondered what fascinated him so much about it all. Why would anyone want an autograph anyway? The only reason I got Angus’s was to try and have a chat with him and ask him how I could play for Middlesex!
Anyway, enough ramblings. Two rather interesting letters in the Times for tomorrow:
Sir, I have just returned with three small boys from watching a wonderful English victory at Headingley, just the sort of day to get our young captivated by the sport. But, alas, no longer do the players pop out at lunch to sign autographs, as Lloyd and Gower did for me as a child; and so we went to where they leave. After waiting for an hour most of them walked straight past. The worst offenders were those who are supposed to be role models for our young, such as one who pretended to be on the phone and our captain, who ignored everyone. Considering play finished at 3pm surely they had a spare moment?
Kirkbymoorside, N Yorks
Sir, What was striking about the crowd at the Headingley Test â€” aided by the sensible ticket pricing â€” was the great diversity of the crowd. Around me sat people from 8 to 80, from every class, women of all ages, England and Pakistani supporters intermingled, even a solitary â€” though somewhat baffled â€” Estonian student.
Huddersfield, W Yorks
Ignoring my cynicism and indifference to the world of autograph hunting, it’s sad that the England players alluded to above didn’t have the time to sign anything. I can’t imagine that is in anyway a reflection on the team, though.
Outgrounds are a great way to watch cricket. There is an intimacy Test and county grounds can’t aspire to; a greater sense of the occasion rather than just the game. Sid was there too. It was his first trip to an outground having been to Lord’s, The Oval and so on and he was fascinated by the quaintness of Southgate. Most amazing of all though is that it is situated in N14, one of those postcodes which simply says “suberbia.” Yet, despite it being a stone’s throw from the Piccadilly line, you could almost be in the country.
Well worth a trip. It’s Â£15 to get for adults, and comparatively cheaper for kids – which I find pretty extortionate quite frankly – but it’s a super little ground and worth keeping an eye on Middlesex’s fixture list for forthcoming games. Also had a brief chat with John Emburey, who I rudely interrupted, who was a top bloke and very accommodating. Cheers Embers.