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Cricket News & Views

Wisdens set fetches big price

AN unbroken Wisden Cricketers' Almanack set from the first year 1864 to 1984 has been auctioned at Bonhams in London this week for £90,000, well above the expected price.

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The books were handsomely bound and offered in fine condition as the top lot. Other items attracting big bids included a revised tyupescript for Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever , which went for £62,400, a unique Jacobean play, for £84,000, and papers relating to the life of the revolutionary Thomas Paine, for £86,400.

Wisden is established as the most famous sports reference work ever published, founded in 1864 by the cricketer John Wisden as a competitor to Fred Lillywhite's The Guide to Cricketers . There have been only 15 different editors in its 140 years.

Though the Bonhams almanacks is short of a complete set, the price looks good value because the remaining 25 books can be acquired easily enough. A full set was sold at auction by Graham Budd at Sotheby's for £120,000 in 2006. The following year a price of £144,000 was apparently achieved at auction, the highest on record. Certainly early gaps can be expensive to fill. For example the year 1896 is notoriously rare, once fetching £24,160 in 2007 as an original hardback with surface wear.

The most valuable single cricket auction item must be Albert Chevallier Tayler's oil painting of Kent versus Lancashire in 1906, which Kent sold for £600,000 in 2006.

Whether James Bond was interested in cricket, one cannot be sure, but Fleming’s typescript became the target of enthusiastic bidding, fetching more than double the estimate. The Bonhams auctioneer described Lot 42 as "peppered throughout with authorial tweaks, written in Fleming's characteristic blue ballpoint."

Bonhams added: "Many taughten the plot, while some are gloriously inconsequential (to the untrained eye at least): a telephone number, for example, gets altered from Wisconsin 9.00456 to Wisconsin 7.3697. When Bond checks himself into the Hotel Astor it was originally 'in front of an elderly woman'; now it is 'before a hatchet-faced woman with a bosom like a sandbag'.

"Or, at page 88, 'too many expense-account customers' becomes 'too much expense-account aristocracy'. While most pages contain one or two alterations, more substantial additions appear in eight places. Every now and then the nagging voice of the publisher's reader can be heard, saying at one point, but surely the world's diamond centre is Amsterdam?"

Posted by Charlie Randall
11/11/2009 11:13:26

ICC stress cricket's rich history

THE ICC will be hosting an orgy of nostalgia at their cricket history conference in Oxford this week, and certainly tradition is a trump card in the battle of wits with the Twenty20 money men because even the Indian Premier League marketing puffs have highlighted Test pedigree to stress the quality of players.

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The ICC have stressed the primacy of Test cricket more than once, but making logical decisions in the face of the huge payments on offer to players, by the Indian Premier League for example, is no easy matter. Divided loyalty is nothing new; a raft of players were prepared to desert the ICC family for relatively large fees in the Kerry Packer tournaments in Australia in the 1970s and to tour South Africa behind the apartheid curtain in the 1980s.

The ICC began as the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909 with only three members – Australia, England and South Africa -- and a century later the organisation has 104 members. The development over those 100 years will be charted by a host of experts in the Nissan Institute at St Antony’s College on Wednesday July 22 and Thursday.

Leading administrators, players, academics, historians and statisticians gather for reflection as part of the ICC’s centenary celebrations. The ICC's president David Morgan said: "One of the key themes of the ICC’s centenary year is tradition, to use 2009 as an opportunity to look back at the game’s rich history. The history conference should be a fantastic occasion."

Former ICC president Ehsan Mani and the organisation’s first chief executive David Richards will come together to reflect upon the big issues they had to deal with during their times at the helm of the global game long before the advent of the 20-overs explosion. And ex-international greats Bishan Bedi, Angus Fraser, Sourav Ganguly, Clive Lloyd and Bob Willis will assess how the game has changed since they began their careers.

Other contributors include Sir Hilary Beckles, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal and Professor of Economic and Social History of the University of the West Indies, Brian Stoddart, the former Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University, Australia, Boria Majumdar, of the University of Central Lancashire, Don Neely, the president of New Zealand Cricket, and leading journalists and cricket historians Mihir Bose, David Frith and Gideon Haigh.

Women’s cricket past and present will be represented by former England captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who lifted the inaugural women’s world cup in 1973, as well as current captain Charlotte Edwards and her team-mate Ebony Rainford-Brent. MCC curator Adam Chadwick will talk about the importance of cricket heritage and perpetuating the game’s legacy, and David Kendix and Rob Eastaway, two of the men behind the Reliance Mobile ICC team and player rankings respectively, will explain how statistics and rankings allow comparisons across history.

To bring the conference right up to date, it will also be attended by current ICC president David Morgan and chief executive Haroon Lorgat, as well as ICC director and ECB chairman Giles Clarke and ECB chief executive David Collier.

Looking ahead to the conference, Morgan said: "One of the key themes of the ICC’s centenary year is tradition, to use 2009 as an opportunity to look back at the game’s rich history, to honour past greats and recognise milestones. We are honouring those past greats through the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in association with the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, recognising the achievements of the great players who have graced the game.

"And the ICC History Conference will be an opportunity for administrators past and present, as well as players, journalists, academics, historians and statisticians to come together and reflect on the events of the past 100 years. It should be a fantastic occasion and a highlight of the ICC centenary year."

Limited space is available for anyone wishing to attend. Media and public must register by email at .

Posted by Charlie Randall
20/07/2009 12:30:17

ECB honour Bill Gordon again

THE Brit Oval groundsman Bill Gordon has won the best four-day pitches award for the sixth year running and the best one-day pitches for fourth year, the ECB have announced.

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Half of the head groundsmen on the circuit received praise: Stuart Kerrison (Chelmsford) as four-day runner-up, Peter Marron (Old Trafford), Mick Hunt (Lord’s) and Paul Marshall (Northampton) for commendations, Mike Grantham (Canterbury) as one-day runner-up, Nigel Gray (Rose Bowl), Marron again, Philip Frost (Taunton) and David Measor (Riverside) for commendations.

The missing grounds are Cardiff, Headingley, Leicester, Worcester, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Hove, Derby, Bristol,

University Centre of Excellence Richard Sula (The Parks, Oxford); outground category joint winners Micky Stewart and Christian Dunkerley (Scarborough) and Vic Demain (Uxbridge). Commendations in the outground category went to Mark Wakefield (Kidderminster), Bob McInroy (Cheltenham) and Andy Peirson (Beckenham).

Alan Fordham, ECB head of first class operations, said: "Once again the nation’s groundsmen and their teams have worked incredibly hard to produce some excellent pitches during another wet season. Great matches happen on great pitches, and the tireless work that groundsmen do all year means that many thousands of spectators and players get maximum enjoyment from the game."

CHARLIE SAYS: The Oval seems to be going the featherbed way, from what I saw, though perhaps it was just the innocuous Surrey bowling that gave that made it seem that way in their 2008 relegation season. Fordham is right about the important role of groundsmen in the enjoyment of cricket.

Posted by Charlie
20/11/2008 20:00:33

Marron is available, Sir Allen

SO FAREWELL (sort of) to Peter Marron, Lancashire's head groundsman, who has done more than many people realise to enhance the entertainment of cricket followers in his 30 years at Old Trafford. When Sir Allen Stanford reads this, he should be on the phone to Manchester straight away.

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The Stanford matches in Antigua this week have underlined the importance of proper pitches. Low and slow usually means dull cricket that cannot be rendered more attractive by glitz. A strip with bounce and pace is the ideal that Marron has achieved so often.

The late 1980s and early 1990s in my opinion were the best years at Old Trafford for sparkling cricket. The venerable ground -- and Marron by proxy -- will always be remembered for Shane Warne's 'ball of the century' on a fine pitch. The Laker 19-wicket achievement in 1956 was famous, but he was operating on rain-affected red marl, a clay embarrassingly helpful to off-spin when wet. In these days of covered pitches, the ECB should consider encouraging marl again rather than the various loams that form solid blocks, leaving the finger spinner as an endangered species.

Marron conjured up near-ideal strips by hard work, though the price was often 'root break' and the pitches would become tired and mild after a few seasons -- requiring another round of re-laying. The Oval has suffered similarly in London and the pitch has lost pace and reverted to featherbed status.

Marron, 53, has decided to go freelance and use his experience on a consultancy basis. He said: "Not many people can come to work each morning and honestly say they love their job, but I can. However, when you’ve been doing it for as long as I have, you get to a point when you need a new challenge and want to use your knowledge in a different capacity.

"Lancashire Country Cricket Club and Old Trafford is a massive part of who I am. I’ve had the best and the worst of times whilst working here, and over the years some work colleagues have become my closet friends. But there is a big wide world out there, and you just know when it’s time to pass over the reins and try something new."

Andy Atkinson left his Essex job and pursued a precarious freelance career when the South African authorities shipped him out to revitalise the tired squares on their circuit after the years of isolation and too much one-day cricket. The Newlands strip in Cape Town, especially, needed skill and experience.

Marron was awarded a benefit in 2006 and he leaves Lancashire's employment at the end of the year after working on the new drainage and outfield. The Jim Cumbes said: "Peter has been thinking about this for some time, and it’s something he and I have discussed at length over the past couple of months. He has been head groundsman here for 25 years, and there are things away from Old Trafford he would like to do, and felt if he didn’t do them now, he never would."

"To my mind, he has been the best groundsman in the country for years. And I know he doesn’t win the top awards, but they tend to go to those with the flattest pitches, not necessarily the best 'cricket' pitches. You just need to read the comments made by the England team and touring sides over recent years, and they are always full of praise for the pitches at Old Trafford."

Cumbes added: "Pete has just completed installing our new £600,000 start-of-the-art drainage system and outfield, and will be kept busy over the coming weeks overseeing the turfing and maintenance of this. It’s not the last we will see of him, as I fully expect him to be driving the re-orientation of the square when that takes place at the end of 2009, it’s just he won’t be here on a full-time basis."

Posted by Charlie
31/10/2008 12:43:11

James Thompson the fastest


THE Kent second-teamer James Thompson, 22, has won the annual fast-bowling contest at Lord's, the climax of 20 roadshows organised by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

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The Hartley Country Club all-rounder from Hextable, near Dartford, won the NatWest Speed Stars with 84.6mph, much faster than his roadshow qualifying speed of 73mph. Adil Butt, from Manchester, produced 77mph, the fastest before Lord's.

The NatWest Speed Stars competition, now in its seventh year, is a nationwide search to find the quickest bowlers. All 38 finalists qualified at one of the interactive cricket roadshow sponsored by NatWest. The Roadshow visited town centres, cricket clubs and NatWest Series matches throughout April to September, attracting more than 4,500 entrants. The winners each received a commemorative medal plus a bat signed by the England team from international stars Michael Vaughan, Stuart Broad and Beth Morgan.

CHARLIE SAYS: I wonder if we will ever hear of the qualifiers again.

National winners at Lord's

James Thompson   Male adult           84.6mph

Tom Dolby           Male under-18      80.2

Muhammed Raza   Male under-15      74.0

Junaid Nadir         Male under-12      65.5

Sophie Southgate Female adult        51.9

Alice Arnold         Female under-18   55.8

Grace Gibbs         Female under-15   59.3  

Cordelia Griffith    Female under-12   57.5

Roadshow qualifiers

Male adult

Adil Butt, 77mph,            Manchester

James Thompson, 73,      Hextable, Nr Dartford

Qasim Akbar, 72,            Bradford

Shaukat Syed, 72,          Birmingham, U18 winner

Tim Dalton, 72,              Woking

Roland Sinclair, 70,         Nottingham

Male Under-18

Abid Awan, 70,              Bradford

Charles Morris, 70,         Lympstone, nr Exeter

Khalil Ahamd, 68,           Birmingham

Mobine Ali, 68,              Birmingham

Tom Forsdike, 66,          Chiswick, London

Harpel Ryatt, 66,           Bradford

Tom Dolby, 65,              Nottingham

Arsalan Rahim, 65,          Newcastle

Male Under-15

Josh Bateman, 63,         Wellingborough, Northants

Joe Spencer, 61,           Walton on Thames

Dom Harvey, 60,            Nottingham

Muhammed Raza, 60,      Croydon

Matthew Regan, 60,       Knutsford, Manchester

Male Under-12

Junaid Nadir, 60,            Blackheath, London

Robert Burgh, 59,           Brighton

Joel Barber, 58,              Bristol

Harry Woodmansee, 57,   Tunbridge Wells

Female adult

Sophie Southgate, 45,    Harwich, Essex, Finalist

Elaine Foxley, 43,          Litchfield

Sally Thomlinson, 43,     London

Samir Nadir, 42,            Blackheath, London

Snowvia Nadir, 42,        Blackheath, London

Female Under-18

Sarah Damen Wiliems, 54, Lincoln (Under-15 winner)

Thea Franklin, 46,        Greenwich, London

Alice Arnold, 44,          Bristol

Female Under-15

Grace Gibbs, 55,          Lewisham, London

Amy Carnwell, 51,        Stoke finalist

Katherine Long, 50,      London

Bethany Marsh, 49,      London

Female Under-12

Cordelia Griffith, 49,     Chigwell, Essex

Phoebe Franklin, 45,     Greenwich, London

Grace Franklin, 41,       Greenwich, London

Hannah Verlander, 40,   Benfleet, Essex

Posted by Charlie
17/09/2008 10:13:58

MCC to continue village charge

THE policy of charging admission for the National Village final at Lord's will continue, the MCC said today.

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Concerns had been raised about the low attendance -- a couple of hundred spectators -- for the final between Valley End and Woodhouse Grange on Sept 8. The reason was hard to pinpoint. It could have been the £6 charge on top of travel costs from Surrey and Yorkshire or the autumnal Monday fixture or even the dwindling appeal of the village ethos.

Clare Skinner, an MCC spokesman, said that there were charges for all matches at Lord's apart from non first class matches involving MCC teams. "The £6 entry fee does not cover the considerable costs involved in staging such a match on the main Ground at Lord's, which is heavily subsidised by MCC," she said, adding that the village game had not always been free of charge.

"Historically the Village Cup has not always been played on a Sunday. The fixture is scheduled to fit around an increasing number of major and county matches, which includes two Middlesex NatWest Pro40s, a Natwest Series match and the Friends Provident Trophy final on the preceding four Sundays. The only Sunday free in August was 10th, and the teams were not through to the final by this date. The same will apply next year."

Valley End won the final in a competition that attracted more than 400 entries this year, though there have been calls for a rule change. Increasing disparity in standards has been caused by Saturday players joining from premier league clubs to play in this Sunday knockout competition. The National Village Cup is sponsored by npower and organised by The Wisden Cricketer magazine.

CHARLIE SAYS: I can't believe the six-quid charge deterred followers from supporting their team.

Click on 'club cricket' to join the debate on village cricket and the thorny premier league issue.

Posted by Charlie
16/09/2008 17:37:31

Oval to Lord's, the long way


BY THE time the cricket season ends, most people connected with the game want a long lie-down and maybe the odd round of golf. And the last place they want to see is a cricket ground. This year two cricket writers will be visiting the lot. 

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Colin Bateman, of the Daily Express , and David “Toff” Lloyd, of the Evening Standard , have planned 16 days on a thousand-mile charity cycle ride to all 18 county headquarters.
They are due to set out at 10am on Sept 13  from The Brit Oval, finishing at Lord’s on Sept 28 about 1,006 miles later, touching Chester-le-Street, Taunton and all points in between. Colin and Toff will be accompanied by Colin’s sons Tom and Jack, his nephew Alan Dracey and the now-retired Sun cricket writer Ian Todd.
Colin said: “We’ve done John o’Groats to Land’s End and a similar one in France, but this is our biggest challenge yet. It seemed a good idea over a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. But we know we’ve got to get ourselves fit pretty fast now.”
The aim is to raise money for two charities. One is the Teenage Cancer Trust, the Laurie Engel Fund, set up in memory of the son of former Wisden editor Matthew Engel, who died aged 13 in 2005. The fund is helping build a new specialist unit for young cancer patients in Birmingham.
The other is Heads Up, which is researching into the causes of head and neck cancer. The charity’s patron is former Test batsman Hugh Morris, now managing director of the England team and a former patient himself.
Engel said: “We’ve had hundreds of people doing sponsored events for Laurie’s fund over the past three years, but I’m just awestruck by what these blokes are doing.”
To support the TCT Laurie Engel Fund go to:

To support Heads Up go to:
For press enquiries or to offer any other help, please call Colin on 07831 237025 or Toff on 07768 723929.
During the ride, when they might be a bit preoccupied, you can call Matthew or Hilary Engel on 01981 241210. 
Sept   Name of stage               Miles                                                    
13      “Pilgrim’s Way”                55      THE BRIT OVAL to CANTERBURY
14      “The Home Ride”             64      To HOVE
15      “The Coastal Jaunt”         66      To SOUTHAMPTON
16      “High Plains Drifters”        63      To Montacute (Somerset)
17      “The Cider Classic”          62      To TAUNTON and BRISTOL
18      “Border Patrol”                71      To Monmouth via CARDIFF
19      “The Heart of England”     42      To WORCESTER
20      “The Midland Miles”          52      To Stafford via EDGBASTON
21      “The Second Half”           55      To OLD TRAFFORD
22      “The Viaduct Velo”          75      To Hawes (Yorkshire)
23      “Top of the Country”       75      To CHESTER-LE-STREET
24      “The Long Haul”              70      To HEADINGLEY
25      “Industrial Industry”         76      To DERBY
26      “The Fox Chase”             65      To Moulton (Northants) via TRENT BRIDGE and LEICESTER
27      “The Penultimate Push”    65       To NORTHAMPTON and Bishop’s Stortford
28      “Lords of the Road”         52       To CHELMSFORD and LORD’S

Posted by Charlie
01/09/2008 16:03:42

Farewell Old Trafford sponge

THOUSANDS of Lancashire supporters walked on the Old Trafford outfield, and many took home some pieces of turf, courtesy of the club, on the day of the Pro40 match against Middlesex -- cancelled due to overnight rain.

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The fact that Sunday's match had to be cancelled so early illustrated perfectly why £600,000 is to be spent on digging up and relaying the outfield. The fixture was to be the last match played on the historic outfield before the bulldozers rolled in to start work on a new state-of-the-art drainage system.

Over the past 150 years the current outfield has played host to some of cricket’s most memorable moments, and spectators braved some bleak weather to walk on the grass, have photos taken in front of the pavilion and take home some manicured turf, cut for them by Peter Marron and his groundstaff.

Earlier in the day the club’s chaplin Rev Malcolm Lorimer led a special service to pay respect to the hundreds of people who had had their ashes scattered on the Old Trafford outfield. In attendance for this service where former players such as Jack Bond, Sonny Ramadhin, Bob Entwistle, Jack Simmons, Peter Lee, Barry Howard, Peter Greenwood, Geoff Pullar and Mike Beddow.

Work on the new outfield starts on Monday Aug 25 and is expected to take eight weeks to complete. Lancashire's remaining home games are scheduled for Blackpool and Liverpool.

CHARLIE SAYS: The Old Trafford outfield absorbed water like a sponge and it was so slow to drain that many days were called off ridiculously early. It was not just the rainfall that built Manchester's bad weather reputation; it was more the failure to get rid of the water.

Posted by Charlie
18/08/2008 15:57:16

Old Trafford turf up for grabs

LOVERS of Lancashire cricket are to be given an opportunity to take home chunks of Old Trafford turf after the county's final match there on Monday Aug 17 before the whole outfield is dug up and replaced.

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Peter Marron and his ground staff will oversee the cutting and distribution free of charge, because it is unlikely that northerners would pay for such a memento. In this economic climate Lancashire have decided against attempting to emulate the Lord's sell-off in 2002, when profit from turf in boxes raised £35,000 for MCC youth cricket charities.

In a thoughtful gesture by the Lancashire club a memorial service will be led by the Rev Malcolm Lorimer for the many hundreds of people who have had their ashes scattered on the outfield over the past 150 years. "The relationship that members and supporters have with Lancashire County Cricket Club and Old Trafford often runs deeper than just cricket or location," said club official Rebecca Trbojevich today.

The NatWest Pro40 one-dayer against Middlesex Crusaders, starting at 1.45pm, will be the last match before a new state-of-the-art drainage system and outfield is installed to speed up the hitherto slow recovery time after rain, a notorious problem caused by the sponge-like quality of the existing field.

Over the years the Old Trafford outfield has seen plenty of action such as Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a Test, Alec Stewart’s 100th hundred, the 2005 Ashes thriller, the 1971 Gillette Cup semi-final in the dark and Shane Warne’s 'Ball of the Century'.

At the completion of the Middlesex match attending spectators will have the opportunity to walk out on to the ground -- though not the square -- and have photos taken on this historic ground. They can walk home with some turf. The club have emphasised they would welcome a donation, but have no intention of pressurising their members.

Posted by Charlie
07/08/2008 11:33:30

UCB fraudster goes to jail

CRICKET South Africa lost more than £400,000 through fraud by one of their employees, and it was a happy coincidence that conviction was achieved in Johannesburg within a few days of the Test team wrapping up the series against England at Edgbaston.

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Diteko Modise, 39, a former financial director of the United Cricket Board -- as the authority was known then -- was sentenced by the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court to effectively 30 years in prison after being found guilty on eight counts of fraud and one count of money laundering totalling £517,000. Only a small proportion was recovered.

Modise, who joined the UCB staff in 200, was told he would be considered for parole only after serving 20 years. He indicated he would appeal.

According to court reports, his version was that the money in question was genuinely given to him by former UCB chief executive Ali Bacher to develop cricket grounds in the rural areas of Postmasburg and Kuruman in the Northern Cape. However, one of the Board officials, Don MacIntosh, disagreed, saying the money was meant for the development of cricket in Soweto and Mamelodi.

The court heard that in 2002 Modise instructed his subordinates to transfer funds into an account held by More Raud Investments, a company solely owned by him. He instructed one of his subordinates to transfer an amount of more than £90,00 into the More Raud Investments account on the pretext that it was for the purchase of a bus for the Proteas cricket team. Instead he bought a Land Rover for his own use and later pruchased a Mercedes-Benz. The prosecution alleged he spent other funds on designer clothes and furniture.

Other UCB funds were utilised to establish companies in the cleaning, construction and mining industries, all of which were operational in Kimberley before being attached by the Asset Forfeiture Unit during Modise's arrest in 2004. He also bought three houses in Pecanwood, Dainfern Valley and Buccleuch, north of Johannesburg, and an apartment in Bloemfontein.

Magistrate Jeremy Janse van Vuuren said Modise had paid back the UCB about £22,000 after he was confronted by the chief executive Gerald Majola about the fraud. Another £90,000 was recovered following an asset forfeiture order in the Johannesburg High Court in May this year.

The court rejected his request for a correctional supervision sentence. Modise had earlier asked the court to give him a non-custodial sentence, saying he had since formed a company and that he would use the profits to reimburse the Cricket South Africa, but the magistrate refused. "You must take responsibility for the crimes you have done," he said.

"At no stage did you admit guilt. You should have desisted from continuing with your criminal conduct in August 2002, but you chose to continue. These crimes were clearly planned. This was clearly an act of greed."

The prosecution alleged Modise embezzled the money between 2000 and early 2004. The fraud was uncovered in March 2004 when the Border Cricket Union informed the UCB of an overdue payment.

Posted by Charlie
04/08/2008 15:00:37
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