No 51: Umpires

Whether to discuss the decisions you have seen on TV that day, whether to fume about the bloke who has just spoiled your Saturday by quickly raising his finger (“being triggered”), or whether just to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of the bloke, cricket could not function without an umpire, so you have to love them (sort of). 

We giggled at Billy Bowden’s antics on the field when he first appeared on our screens in the 90s, before cricket collectively tutted at him & made him concentrate on the decisions.

We sighed despondently when Dickie took them off for bad light yet again when all on our screens seemed fine and dandy. 

We cringe at every stinker we got in our careers, and remember them ALL (well I do, don’t know about you). I still remember the guy who triggered me twice LBW in the same season after massive inside edges.

We swear, shout and question the lineage of the guy who saws you off LBW with the 2nd ball of the game. Especially if you don’t bowl. Your mood at work for the forthcoming week may be dictated by the movement of a Septugenarian index finger.

We hide out of the way if there is a chance we might be required to do “square leg” or maybe even an end in games with no umpires. 

We chuckle at the famous ones, the umpires who gain a near-legendary status due to their sheer incompetence. The umpire who you make sure you appeal at constantly in the second innings, because you know what time his last bus is due, so are bound to get decisions if time is looking a bit tight.

In personal experience, there was one guy who became famous around our club, and would provide the fuel for beer anecdotes, including (but not exclusively)

 

“Wide ball. And over”

 

“One short”

“But they only ran one”

“Oh yeah. Cancel that last signal scorers”

 

“Dead Ball, you didn’t play a shot”

“Well, yeah it was a bye, I don’t have to”

“Get back to the other end”

(Some two overs later)

“You were right about that bye. Hope you don’t lose by 1 run”

 

The number of teams who left our ground in utter disbelief at some of the decisions grew year on year. I must point out they guy wasn’t biased, he was just as likely to give decisions against either side.

Every club cricketer will have tales about one or more.

Confession time, for the last 12 years, I have been an umpire.

spiffump

It’s amazing what jumping to the other side of the fence does. I immediately underwent a conversion from non-walker to walker for the rest of my playing days (Umpires’ Union and all that). Looking back, not walking hadn’t done me much good over the years anyway.

My pet hate was being given out LBW sweeping. I would return to the sanctity of the dressing room and unleash my stream of invective about how if I was just playing a forward defensive with the same stride, I would never be given. You know what? When someone sweeps, it is very easy to give LBWs, you get such a good look at it. I’ve given loads of them!

Presumably now players question MY parentage and abuse me when they have returned back to the hutch (never on the field, I always waited to get off the field first!). Certainly the facial expressions of many LBW victims would indicate that is likely to be the case.

Obviously umpiring is very straightforward, just ask Bob Willis. The scrutiny given by TV means that 15 year old lads now expect you to be able to give naked eye run-outs that a high-speed camera can barely discern, cos they can do it on the telly. 

It doesn’t half help you keep in touch with the game once playing is no longer a physically-viable option, though it’s murder if it rains, cricketers REALLY can moan. 

And it makes you a real saddo as well, having learned the laws.

 

1.    On a very small ground, the opening bowler is bowling express pace. He runs in and delivers the ball, but it slips out of his hand, sails over the batsman’s head, the wicket keeper’s head and crosses the boundary without bouncing. What should be the correct call & signal?

 

2.    Batsman A faces a delivery & hits it straight up in the air, a long way up. The batsmen take a run whilst the wicket-keeper positions himself under the ball to take the catch. Just as he is about to catch it, Batsman B (the non-striker) screams in his ear “DROP IT” at the top of his voice. The wicket keeper drops the ball, and the fielding side appeal. What do you do?

 

If you can answer those you are probably a qualified umpire (or maybe scorer). Because I’m a little sadistic, I’ll post the correct answers as a comment at some unspecified time in the future!

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No 48: Old Scorebooks

As a young lad, my club’s dressing rooms incorporated seating that lifted up to reveal storage space underneath. These were the 1970s and the era of “club gear”, where the club would provide pads, batting gloves, keeping gloves, bats and even occasionally boxes (!) for communal use. Try telling that to the kids today! Such gear would be stored in these under-seat lockers between games.

Naturally, inquisitive young minds would have a scout through these lockers to see what treasures lay within. On occasion, you struck gold, and a copy of Penthouse or Men Only would be lurking amongst the pads – well I was 11 after all, and the internet hadn’t been invented….

More often though, you would come across an old scorebook. A record of games past, a record of your club’s history. A record of games you knew absolutely nothing about, games that took place before you were even considered, never mind born.

Having played for a  club which has been less than diligent in keeping accurate records over the years, no set system has ever been in place for retaining old scorebooks, with the result that a huge number are untraceable. I know, I have the ones that ARE available in my house.

So discovering a 1962 book in the lockers allowed you a window into the past, to see names of men who were now retired & regular spectators. To see that they too played for the club and also allowed you a glimpse of how good / bad they may have been.

Looking back on the games your Dad played in, such as the effort from 1974 below , which was one of his games just prior to retirement.

1974 (3)

The perfectly manicured efforts of the 1976 scorer (see below), or the books that are much more the norm with an ink-spider crawling across them and not adding up, even though as a side you only totalled 48.

1976 (2)

Or, more commonly, you can take a nostalgic look back over your own performances, remember some of the games in which you played, especially the ones where you did well! (I couldn’t resist popping my highest score in!)

highscore

Then there are the score books that hold a greater club-history – the 10 wicket performance of one of our 3rd team players in the late 90s,  the fabled 1973 game where my Dad captained our 2ndXI on Cup Final day with 7 men (Sunderland were in the Cup Final) and how they were all out for 15 and got to watch the whole game.

Or the game where our 3rd XI could only muster 6 men (had 3 teams to turn out on same Bank Holiday Monday), but still managed to get 170.

Or my personal favourite, the book where the young lad scoring was required to enter the surname “Wordsworth” in the book seven times over the course of the game. All 7 efforts had a different spelling, none of them correct. How I wish I had that book.

Get a few lads who have played cricket together over a period of time, and chuck them the scorebook rom when they were under-17s and see how they react.

With the general move towards computer scoring now infiltrating well into the club scene, perhaps we aren’t too far away from the point when all scoring will be carried out via an ipod-compatible app and the records all stored online.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite, and electronic recording of results has huge advantages in terms of the statistical record, but there will be a moment of sadness within me if the scorebook is to die. In 20 years’ time, I just can’t imagine anyone sitting enjoying a pint leafing through the webpages of the 2013 season on play-cricket.com.

If you’re lucky enough to play at a club that regularly stores their old books, go and dig out the one for the first season you played next time you are down there. I guarantee you’ll love it, old scorebooks are great. Now I’m 45, I’d definitely consider them a better find than a copy of Penthouse or Men Only. Just.

No 47: The Dressing Room.

Ask any sportsman what he misses about the game after he retires, and a huge percentage will answer “the craic” or “the dressing room” or “the lads”.

It was ever thus. The lifeblood of any sporting team is its spirit, and this spirit is engendered in the dressing room. (And maintained by the absolutely necessary lads’ nights out / bonding exercises / team curries etc)

The dressing room. An area of sanctity for the team. A space which is the domain of only the selected few, with an overriding mission to make it smell as unpleasant as possible over the course of a day.

An area of hugely varying size and quality, from the club dressing room that would require three shifts for 11 people to change, to the old-school comfy-chair filled variety that the pros are used to.

From those with gleaming new power showers that exfoliate you with the power of the spray, to those which have floorboards that may give way at any minute, a solitary sink in the corner (cold water only) and a toilet that last flushed 15 years ago. The latter is still preferable to the clubs that provide open-air facilities “out the back” of the dressing rooms. Invariably overgrown, it is impossible to convey the joy of urinating whilst being nibbled at by insects of such great variety that David Attenborough is planning a 6 part series. Smells lovely too, especially at the height of summer…

It is the company of your team mates that provides the greatest joy. Nowhere in my experience provides a clearer demonstration of Darwinian theory, though in this case “fittest” refers to the ability to deliver the most withering put-down, or funniest micky-take. Nothing is sacred. Dressing rooms appear not to have an “edit” button when it comes to taste or decency.

I have toyed with some examples from my own club career, but have decided against it, save to say that if you bear some passing resemblance to anyone in the news for ANY reason, it may well be likely to become your nickname for the foreseeable future.

The creation of nicknames is a rich seam that can be plundered at will almost inexhaustibly (see reason number 27) for both your team-mates and the opposition, examples from personal recollection including

1) The very thin player – Herschelle Ribs

2) The single-toothed umpire – Juanita

3) The dark haired, bushy bearded opponent –           Sutcliffe (the one that got past my “edit” button – references to serial killers are surprisingly common)

4) The opposition bowler with the Grouch Marx-like glasses and moustache – False Face

5) The red faced opening bowler – Jerry the Berry

6) The unkempt player – Shipwreck

7) The spectator who stammered a lot at the start of sentences – Porky Pig.

8) The player who grew his hair long despite receding alarmingly on top – Terry Nutkins

9) The player whose Dad looks like Popeye – Sweet Pea.

And so on, there are hundreds. We once counted around 20 different nicknames that were used for Jerry the Berry at one time or another.

But the dressing room is also an area where you should consider your remarks before issuing them into the public domain. An ill-considered utterance may condemn you to months (or more) of humiliation, and provide the material for many a “beer-tale” for years to come.

Perhaps again best illustrated by examples from personal experience

 

a) To the player who has been recently injured

“How’s it looking for next week”?

“Getting there, I’m 90/20”

 

b) Having overtaken a horse & rider on the way to a game

“Do you need a licence to drive a horse on the road?”

(Of course I PROMISED not to tell the rest of the team about that one…)

 

c) When a player was ill in the dressing room

“What’s up with him”

“Sunstroke I think”

“How do you get that?”

 

Tales of the lad who boiled the kettle before going to bed to save time the next morning, the constant criticism of the size & shape of everyone’s genitalia, the Deep Heat in the underwear, the cigarette ends in the batting gloves, the stench of the gear that hasn’t been washed for weeks, the ability to evict the debutant who has innocently taken up “my spot”, the 20 year-old Wrigley’s chewing gum that just shatters when you try & chew it, surreptitiously pouring extra shampoo onto the head of  neighbour in the shower until he realises, trying to get in and out of the shower before “the big lads” come in, having to untie the knots in your clothing, people telling lies about their sex life.

 

All things I miss now I’ve finished playing. Because the craic was great in the dressing room.

No 35: Newlands

Perhaps there are fewer things in life better than being able to relax in the sun with a cool beer or other beverage of your choice.

In cricket’s case, the sport affords numerous opportunities to do exactly that. In addition, you can do this whilst in the vicinity of some grounds that can be considered simply beautiful.

Having considered “beautiful grounds” as a piece to contribute to this blog, it struck me that there are simply too many stunning backdrops & surroundings for the game of cricket to restrict ourselves to just one topic. (plus, 500 is some way off!)

Lord’s, New Road, the MCG, the scenery of New Zealand, the number of fantastic settings are too great for me to remember them all here.

My closest 1st class ground, the Riverside, affords a superb view of Lumley Castle, which was a lovely aesthetic addition to watching Ian Bell score a hundred last summer.

I’m sure there are some utterly picturesque or idiosyncratic club grounds that would qualify too.

My personal favourite is Newlands in Cape Town. Having enjoyed the opportunity to go there 3 times, it’s the type of ground that takes your breath away 

In January 2000, I was fresh off a plane, and straight to the 4th day of the test match, to watch Shaun Pollock and his mates wrap up the tail and consign England to an innings defeat before I really knew what was going on. 

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63863.html

Having been allocated a seat with my back to Table Mountain and being somewhat sleep deprived after the flight, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the full splendour of Newlands until some days later, when we returned to watch our recent club pro HD Ackerman (now one of Supersport’s commentary team in SA) play in a first class game.

Newlands4

http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1999-2000/RSA_LOCAL/SSS/SCORECARDS/JAN/WPR_GTG_SSS_14-17JAN2000.html

With there being fewer than 100 people in the ground for most of this game, we were able to fully explore the ground, the magnificent views from the executive boxes on the top floor of the main stand, the old-world style of the members’ bar in the pavilion, with its Castle lager sold at 50p per pint in the old-style pint glass with a handle.

But it is sitting in the ground in the sun with Table Mountain in full view and watching the cricketing spectacle unfold before that you affords the greatest pleasure. I could do it every day.

And I have been fortunate enough to return in both 2005 and 2009. Neither game resulted in success for England, but at Newlands it doesn’t seem to matter so much.

Cricketing heaven.

No 28: Richie Benaud

Richie Benaud is an absolute legend.

I thought about stopping there, thinking “job done, nothing more needs be said”, but why use 6 words when I could drag it out to 600?

Born in 1930, his playing days were over well before my time, but 248 wickets with his leg-spin at an average of 27 in his 63 tests represent figures that stand up to scrutiny at test level, an average of around 4 wickets per test is international class.

Handy with the bat too, with a top test score of 122, over 2000 runs at just under 25, including a pivotal role in the run chase that led to the first ever tied test in Brisbane in the 1960/61 series between Australia  and the West Indies ( a series described by many as the best ever).

A match winning spell of round the wicket leg spin at Old Trafford in 1961 maybe represented his finest playing hour on these shores.

I suspect, however, that the wider cricketing world today just knows of Richie as the doyen of the commentating art, the master.

Whilst Jim Laker was bluffing his way through the day (“What a magnificent way to go to a six” indeed!), Richie delighted us with his wry Benaudisms.

“It’s not the worst drop I’ve ever seen. But it’s in the top 5”

“How do you spell kamikaze?” (When Andrew Hilditch fell to yet ANOTHER hook shot in the 1985 Ashes series)

“Captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill. But don’t try it without that 10%”

“He’s given that some LarryDoodley”

“He’s not quite got hold of that. If he had, it would have gone for nine”

And many others, confectionery-stall based or otherwise (What exactly WAS a confectionery stall in 1981? Ice-Cream Van?)

You can (and probably should) criticise many of his BBC co-commentators in the day, Jack Bannister for his knowledge of all things Warwickshire, the madness of Ted Dexter (which I suspect could be a topic all on its own), the genial bufferishness of Tom Graveney, Max Walker on Channel 9 was just bizarre,  but I can never remember anyone criticising Richie.

When Tony Lewis asked him a question, he knew he wasn’t answering Tony, but the nation, as he turned to camera to address his public in that slightly angled, one-eye-bigger-than-the-other way of his. Richie spoke to you.

On the occasions when Ashes action down under was limited to a half hour highlights programme courtesy of channel 9 the next day, it was the reassuring presence of Richie that introduced it, often dressed in what appeared to be a lab coat (from the waist-up view that we got – it might have been a white jacket though). Personally I like to think he had just popped out from some internationally-important DNA research to do the cricket links, because he could if he wanted to, you know, he’s that good.

Witness his comments at the end of the footage of the famous Trevor Chappell underarm ball in the ODI v New Zealand. The footage is on you tube.

Kudos to the man also for his views on cricket remaining free-to-air, the reason he never joined the Sky team from Channel 4.

There are very few people in the world of sport that transcend the dislike of fans. Sir Bobby Robson was one, Richie Benaud (OBE in 1961, why not Sir?) is another.

And everyone who knows the game, knows Richie.

(The inspiration to write this blog was the tweeted news that Richie has been readmitted to hospital in January with a broken vertebrae after a car accident in October 2013 – get well soon Richie!)

No 21: Indoor Nets

Indoor Nets

The constant use of practice to make perfect is an almost daily occurrence for those who are talented and/or lucky enough to be paid to play the game. It’s part of the job.

For the vast majority of the participants in the cricketing world, however, nets are something that you need to fit in alongside the rest of your life.

This is why you will find hunched figures in the shadows brandishing cricket bats in the middle of January, as they wait to be picked up for the first of the winter indoor net sessions.

These will take place at either

a)      A local purpose-built facility, hired out by the hour or (more commonly)

b)      A local school / leisure centre, where mats of varying quality are rolled out over the gym floor

In my view, they have limited value, but I suppose that, as a former batsman, being able to hit through the line of almost anything that was bowled to you was hardly adequate preparation for opening the batting in Co. Durham in April. Fair enough if your home ground is the Adelaide Oval or the M1.

The one thing they would do though, was “blow off the cobwebs” having remained basically dormant since the previous September.

A group of players will gather just before 10am on a Saturday morning at the appointed venue, invariably hungover and, slowly, order will form from this amorphous mass of masculinity.

People are allocated to various lanes (6 or 8 to each, dependent on attendance) and over the next 2 hours each will be allocated 15/20 minutes of batting against bowling of highly variable (mainly poor) quality.

These two hours are almost guaranteed to throw up the following issues

Balls – someone needs to have thought to gather together last season’s spare balls for net use and remember to bring them along. Having secured the one in best condition for himself (naturally), he will then “produce his ball-bag” (cricketing double-entendre #147 of 552) for the others to rummage around in. Usually these balls are of a range of qualities, dependent on how many games they have been used in and how much exposure to the bouncer they have had. (Naturally by “Bouncer” I mean the dog from Neighbours)

It may be that there aren’t enough for one each, so ball-sharing may have to occur. The sharer will then surreptitiously search out the best quality ball in that net. The sharee will be highly reluctant to form the sharing contract, especially if the other party is a “non-bowler”

“Alright to go sharesies?”

“Go on then, but I’m bowling first”

“Cheers”

“Make sure you keep the bloody shine on it though”

Batting order – in general, the rule was the earlier you arrive, the earlier you bat. This ma result in people arriving up to half an hour early to claim their spot, or a deadly race along the dual carriageway if the two opening batsmen for the 1st XI both happen to be taking their cars on that day.

You MUST, however, be extremely aware of Mr “I’ve had my bat and now I’m going home”. In net terms, this man is pure evil. He turns up late, sneaks into the batting line-up as early as he possibly can and then exits as soon as he can, usually with some lame excuse of having to take the wife shopping, or “It’s my weekend with the kids”. Never believe this man’s excuses, ALWAYS bat him last. “Sod the kids, I’m having a bat”

The outgoing batsman will always whinge to the designated timekeeper that he has been given less than his allocated time, the incoming batsman that he has had time nicked from his slot.

Interruptions – invariably, one of the hungover contingent will leave a cloud of utterly noxious gas at the point of delivery, resulting in the next bowler running in and being met with a wall of retch-inducing nastiness in his delivery stride meaning he either bowls the ball into the side of the net, resulting in moans from the batsman, or he stops and fails to deliver it at all whilst he registers a complaint with the culprit, again resulting in moans from the batsman who is losing his precious time.

No kit – one person will always turn up in a track suit & with no cricket kit whatsoever. Usually enough will be loaned to him so he can have a bat, but this raises the vexatious issue of box-sharing. For the kitless one, does he want to insert a recently used one into his undies. Residual warmth and sweatiness are unpleasant in the extreme. For the person loaning, what is his view of the general hygiene levels of the potential loanee and his Friday evening activities? Best to avoid if possible, but cricketers are usually loathe top want a fellow player to put his lovespuds at risk, so someone will usually say yes. These days, the kitless one has probably turned up in boxer shorts as well, so he’ll have to bat commando no matter what.

In this manner it continues until midday (and the next club using the facility) arrives. You all retire for a pint and to exchange half-baked theories on the winter’s cricket. The full indoor net horror is not yet over though.

Club indoor nets require everyone to bowl, including those of us for whom bowling is but a distant memory in the school team. Bowling is weird. It must use muscle groups that no other human activity does. Thus, if you haven’t bowled for a period of time & then put 2 hours of bowling into said muscle groups, they are going to complain. Movement of that arm is enormously restricted over the next few days, as your shoulder seems to be almost frozen.

This impairs your ability in…… various ….domestic functions. 95% of all bidets in Britain are in the homes of cricketers. FACT.

No 17: John Price and the art of the run-up

Shane Warne with his measured, menacing approach, Bob Willis and his wildly flailing arms, Mushtaq Ahmed with his “double-whirl”, and Asif Masood with his bent-kneed approach that John Arlott famously compared to Groucho Marx pursuing a waitress, all memorable bowlers.

They pale into insignificance, however, when one’s earliest exposure to top class cricket was UK TV coverage in the early 1970s and the thing of beauty that was John Price. Whether it was his appearances in the 1972 Ashes, or just a run-of-the-mill John Player League Sunday game, the sight of his run-up made me, as a young boy rush out and copy it every time he played the game.

Starting at somewhere around mid-off (who presumably needed to field a bit closer than normal to avoid being an obstruction), Price described a beautiful arc as he approached the wicket, only straightening up in the last few strides. If the TV camera was quite well zoomed in, you would wonder where the bowler was, only for him to pop into shot as he straightened up in the final approach.

Whilst most bowlers now carry tape measures to mark out a run pre-match, presumably Price used an enormous compass for the same task.

Internet footage of Price remains elusive, though whilst searching I have viewed footage of many other games from the same era & I wonder if it was a coaching point in the 1970s, to have an angled run up? Ken Shuttleworth of Lancashire seemed to have an exaggerated approach, and others such as Geoff Arnold too.

Memory tells me that JSE Price of Middlesex and England was the finest exponent of the art though.

No 16: Owz’That (and variants)

The obvious extension for any lad obsessed with cricket and the statistical world surrounding it, was to create imaginary games. To this end, I suspect most people who expressed an interest in the game have at some point received a gift of the Owz That game. 2 hexagonal steel barrels allowed us  to ease the pain of England’s latest overseas reverse by replaying the series on paper.

Of course, for the more obsessive amongst us, you could take it to greater lengths. The game was designed to provide a fairly quick conclusion, something that could be played in a school break. That method, though, did not provide the required level of complexity for some of us.

The runs barrel, had 1,2,3,4,6 and Owz That, so it was very much ahead of its time as a prelude to Twenty20, dot balls were extremely rare

When an Owz That appeal took place, you only had a 1 in 3 chance of surviving, since only 2 of the faces of the “appeal” barrel gave a not out result.

It was not uncommon for the top order to be blown away, before Mike Hendrick came to England’s rescue with an undefeated century at number 11, as England posted 250 all out off 12 overs.

Extra levels of complexity were required. The barrels were dispatched, and replaced by dice. New systems were drawn up, to make wickets upon appeal less likely, to allow top order batsmen “lives” so that they would, in the main, be the highest scorers, and to allow scores of 400+ to be posted more frequently.

Hand-drawn score sheets were prepared, squads selected and full series would be played. World Cups, County Championships, Gillette Cups, John Player Leagues, nothing was impossible, given a long winter and no live coverage of cricket.

And I (and countless others – I hope!!) owe it to two small, easily-lost hexagonal barrels. Hope the bloke who invented it got an OBE or something.

 

No 15: Playfair Cricket Annual

Boys love stats. Ask any lad of about 11 and he will probably be able to recount an amazing level of detail about his chosen sport, or video game.

With every ball of almost every game now logged somewhere in the ether, you can pretty much find the economy rate of Mitch Claydon on dry pitches whilst bowling into uphill, into the wind and round the wicket at left-handers at the touch of a button.

Before Mr Berners-Lee enabled us to instantly find out the par score for sides batting first in Twenty20 games at New Road, pre-pubescent males had to seek out alternative sources to slake their statistical thirst.

The cost (and weight) of the Wisden annual being prohibitive in my younger days, the pocket sized (and, crucially, pocket money-sized) Playfair Cricket Annual proved a must-have.

Where else could I find out the career stats of Leicestershire stalwart Mike Norman? Perhaps I should more accurately say Michael Eric John Charles Norman – a piece of information I will remember for life.

In the 1990s, I along with others gazed with awe at the full name of Chaminda Vaas, but it was tinged with sadness as he broke Mike’s “most forenames” record.

For years I knew the initials of every first class player, and could recite the actual names for 90 per cent of them. I sniggered at Gordon Greenidge’s first name being Cuthbert. I entered into heated arguments about which was faster RMF or RFM, or shook my head in disbelief that girls didn’t find the fact that Derek Pringle’s Dad played for East Africa in the 1975 World Cup fascinating.

It is with a sense of warmth (and no little surprise) that I find it is still on sale to this day, still appropriately sized, and also appropriately priced.

No 14: Emergency Call-Ups

Thousands of miles from home, behind in the series, and injuries to key players leave team selection in disarray.

In the ultra-professional 21st Century, just ask the appropriate standby player to hop on a plane.  They’re being paid to keep fit, just in case.  Good grief, players even nip home for the birth of a child these days, despite it being a 24 hour flight each way.

Not so a generation ago. Much the same as Ray Mears, you had to utilise what was to hand, invariably someone who was over playing as a club pro. Not exactly test class, or so you thought, but they are playing first class cricket at home and are on hand.

Tony Pigott delaying his wedding to make his debut in 1982, Mike Whitney launching a test career from the Lancashire Leagues in 1985.

Clayton Lambert left my own club in 1991 to deputise for the injured Gordon Greenidge on the West Indies tour of England. He had been pro since 1984 and was something of a legend in the North-East club scene, and is to this day.

As club secretary, I had to make the calls, everything was done by the board, though making a call to Trinidad to officially confirm we were releasing him from his contract to join the tour was a tad daunting.

Delight followed as our long-time friend made his test debut at the Oval, but an injudicious swipe to the first ball Phil Tufnell bowled consigned him to the International wilderness for the next 7 years.

Imagine Roy Hodgson, shorn of yet another player for one of various minor ailments, and needing to fill the bench for the friendly away to Spain, placing a call to Puerto Banus where the Leyton Orient squad happen to be having their end of season bash.

But, if travelling, always pack your whites, just in case…