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Cricket News & Views

Fury in the Shropshire shires

A GAP year student-teacher from New Zealand had his first cricket season in sleepy Shropshire interrupted by an umpiring incident that led to police involvement and the abandonment of a match, making news around the world.

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The Shropshire Star reported that a dismissal appeal against Rhys McCarthy was controversially turned down in a third-team Shropshire League Division Three game between Oswestry and Whitchurch on May 22, and play was abandoned in the day's 17th over due to alleged fighting. The Daily Mirror published a version of the story, and this unusual incident -- at least rare enough in England's quieter shires -- was widely circulated by news agencies.

McCarthy, an outstanding all-round sportsman from St Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton, was working in England as an assistant at Oswestry School, the venue of the match. He had motored to 84 not out, and the score had reached 128 for no wicket when he was reprieved in a bump-ball incident when apparently caught off seam bowler Chris Brothwood. An infuriated Whitchurch side subsequently refused to continue.

Neither captain would comment, but it seems clear that there was fighting that had to be broken up by West Mercia Police police officers. And McCarthy was denied the chance of a second league century in three innings. A lively start for the North Islander in England...

Dave Ralphs, of the FBC Manby Bowdler Shropshire Cricket League, said that the league’s disciplinary committee had been alerted. "I have asked for full statements from both teams and when those are received, the committee will consider the matter," he said. "All I can say is that the game was abandoned following an incident."

Posted by Charlie Randall
28/05/2010 10:56:27

Yorkshire umpire seriously injured

UMPIRE John Whittaker is recovering in hospital "significantly better", the ECB have said in a news bulletin, after a throw-in fractured his skull during a club league match in Yorkshire.

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Whittaker was officiating at Illingworth in the Halifax club's match against Harden in Division Two of the Airedale and Wharfedale League on May 1. Standing at square leg with his eye on the batsmen, he was struck on the left side of his head by a throw from the boundary. The blow knocked him unconscious for about two minutes, according to reports.

The incident was reminiscent of the awful accident in Swansea in 2009 that killed the widely respected umpire Alcwyn Jenkins, 72. He was struck on the back of the head by a throw from closer range while ready to adjudicate a quick single during a league match between Swansea and Llangennech.

The coroner recorded the formal verdict of accidental death at the inquest held in April. The incident was especially distressing for the umpire's family and for the fielder Stephen Davies, 29, who was coached by Jenkins as a boy.

Swansea and Gower coroner Philip Rogers said the Jenkins family had made it clear that they did not attach any blame to Davies. Jenkins’ son Paul had told him in a statement that he and the rest of his family also took consolation from the fact his father had been doing something he loved at the time of his death.

Whittaker recovered consciouness "completely disorientated", according to a witness Keith Goulden, father of the Illingworth captain Chris. He said: "The ball was hit down to the square leg boundary, where it was fielded and the ball was thrown in. The ball then hit the umpire on the side of the head, lacerating his left ear. He went straight to the ground." The victim was taken by ambulance to Calderdale Royal Hospital and transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler's end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call "dead ball" before collapsing in pain.

Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.

Posted by Charlie Randall
07/05/2010 12:17:13

Lord's beckons more villages

THE decision by the organisers of the Npower National Village Cup to refuse entries using professional coaches or players within the club seems to have encouraged more teams to enter, though Troon -- a leading name in Cornwall -- have returned.

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Troon won the first two village cups in 1972 and 1973, again in 1976 and were losing finalists in 1983, but for many years it was apparent that the competition was not really intended for this sort of club. The Cornish village was the hub of high grade cricket for many miles around, and their ECB premier league status eventually disqualified them from entering along with a number of other similar clubs.

Before this season the Wisden Cricketer magazine reported that more than 50 new and returning village teams were joining hundreds of other clubs for the 39th season of the competition, which started on April 25. Troon became eligible again after their relegation from the Cornish Premier League and they decided to re-enter after narrowly missing a quick return last season.

The current club coach Chris Rowe was 12th man in the 1983 final, and now his youthful twin sons, Tom and James, are two talented players hoping to break into the first team. Troon’s first game back in the competition will be at home to South Petherwin on Sunday May 23.

Wisden Cricketer editor John Stern said it was great to see a club like Troon back in the competition. "Along with clubs like St Fagans," he said, "they helped to bring the competition to national attention back in the 1970s and it is their legacy which continues to make the cup such a popular attraction for recreational cricketers across the country."

While Troon in a less successful era for them are beyond reproach, this was a surprising comment from Stern because it was probably the presence of so many powerful clubs that happened to be located in sparsely populated areas that rendered the competition inaccessible for so many genuine villages. Recent action to keep major clubs and 'professionalism' at bay probably saved the competition. It certainly kept the romantic concept of 'village cricket' alive.

The final is scheduled for Lord's on Sunday Sept 12. Among the new names for 2010 are Snainton, from North Yorkshire, Cleator, from Cumbria, Hammerwich, from Staffordshire, Leek Wooton, from Warwickshire and Lewdown, from Devon.

Npower have been excellent sponsors of cricket. They currently back all Test match series in England, women's Test cricket and the Twenty20 Cup.

www.thewisdencricketer.com

Posted by Charlie Randall
26/04/2010 11:42:56

Obstructive ECB came under fire

THE 'crown jewels' debate seemed to head against the terrestrial lobby in February, and pressure has grown to keep Test cricket off the A list of events reserved for terrestrial television in the public interest. But the pro-listing MCC have already questioned the ECB's gung-ho attitude to this issue, an insight into their strained relationship.

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At a presentation in July 2009 to the panel chaired by David Davies the MCC, always independent of ECB central funding, showed more than a hint of hostility to cricket's governing body in the submission by chief executive Keith Bradshaw and lawyer Peter Leaver.

The MCC reckoned greater flexibility was required by the ECB in reaching broadcasting deals and more research was needed before forming policy. And surprisingly the MCC, self-funding owners of Lord's, disclosed they were prevented by the ECB from holding their own money-making matches. For example, no profit was allowed from the twenty20 match between Middlesex and the 2009 IPL champions Rajasthan Royals, which attracted a 22,000 crowd.

The MCC said to the Davies panel: "The match was broadcast live to India and accidentally so here in the UK because the ECB had not read the paperwork. Such matches are for the good of the game, but generally the ECB’s approach under the Staging Agreement is to make things as hard as possible. Games must be for charity and use ECB approved broadcasters."

Not enough research, the MCC implied, had been done by the ECB into the advantages or otherwise of terrestrial coverage and the effect on youth cricketers. "To understand which business model works best for cricket one would need to undertake a comparative study of Australia – with free-to-air cricket -- and coaching schemes and of England – with no free-to-air cricket -- and coaching."

Other points made by the MCC for the Davies Report included concerns that satellite television was too expensive and that cricket awareness was being damaged.

>Access to Test match cricket on free-to-air television greatly exercised MCC members, who were particularly worried that people – and young people in particular – were missing out because they could not, as opposed to would not, pay for premium sports channels.

>MCC concerns had been confirmed by an e-mail exchange with a cricket coaching school. Because of the way in which cricket is played in schools, youngsters coming to coaching schemes didn’t know that two batsmen played were at the wicket at the same time because they had never seen a real game of cricket.

>The MCC had therefore set up a Working Party to look at the issue. As a result the MCC discussed with the ECB a number of possibilities that would have increased the 27 packages on offer to broadcasters to incorporate a degree of free-to-air coverage of Test match, one-day and T20 cricket. But the ECB still proceeded on the basis of the same 27 packages in selling the rights last time round.

>The MCC stressed it had no animus against Sky, which had done a great job in broadcasting cricket. Its concern was the ECB’s broadcast rights policy and the question of access, and its view was that the ECB had not achieved the right balance between exposure and commercial exploitation.

>The MCC also had concerns about the impact of the way in which the ECB spends its commercial revenue. The MCC, which does not have a county cricket team, does not share in the broadcasting revenues. It therefore has to cover the costs of Lords Test matches from earned income. This means that ticket prices rise and fewer people see cricket either at Lord's itself or on TV.

>The Home Ashes series is always an event of national resonance. Series against South Africa, India and Pakistan are important, but do not have that iconic status.

>The MCC believed that terrestrial broadcasters would still be interested if the price was right, especially as there was a greater number of channels that overcame traditional scheduling difficulties.

>The MCC did not dispute the ECB’s participation figures, but did not think that the growth was down to the ECB alone. The MCC and others did an awful lot to increase children’s participation.

>Highlights appeared not to be an adequate substitute for live coverage. They worked for football, but not for cricket.

>Overall the MCC’s key message was that greater flexibility was needed when the ECB put together broadcast rights packages so that some cricket remained available on free-to-air television.

CHANNEL 4 FELT 'LET DOWN' BY THE ECB

Channel 4 representatives declared themselves in favour of the 'crown jewels' and made the point that it was for the longer-term interest of sport and and was good for viewers too. They broadcast Test cricket for four years to the end of 2005, the renowned Ashes series, but ended their association because the experience had not been financially viable and they could not match Sky on price..

They said: "Securing the rights to England’s home Test matches had been a piece of pure counter-intuitive C4 opportunism. It had never been a commercially driven decision, but it livened up summer schedules.

And in the case of series involving the West Indies, India and Pakistan, C4 would also mesh with a wider multi-cultural offering, which served its wider public service broadcasting remit and brought in new audiences. The juxtaposition of cricket and Big Brother had also been commercially very valuable to C4.

Channel 4 added: "C4 was glad to have done it, and tried to share the 2006-09 rights with Sky, but the ECB went with Sky. C4 did not bid for the current rights. There was no doubt however that cricket was now much less in the public consciousness. C4 felt a little let down by the ECB as it did a lot for cricket. They were not precious about that, but the ECB went for the money because of the need to support a financially ailing county cricket structure.

"Digital switchover might increase the number of qualifying free-to-air channels theoretically able to bid for listed events but they would be small and have small budgets. The greater value was probably in having the additional scope to schedule live events away from the main channels for example, on BBC3 and BBC4."

Posted by Charlie Randall
25/02/2010 14:34:59

ECB note club cricket boom

THE number of recreational cricketers in England and Wales is still likely to be rising sharply, according to figures compiled by the ECB from their annual survey of Focus Clubs, suggesting that the dire shortage of cricket on terrestrial television has not had a dampening effect on youthful aspirations as might be expected.

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The 1,079 clubs, approved and suported by the ECB for their youth sections and attention to coaching, are responsible for a 15 per cent increase in participation across the men, women and youth sector. This follows rises of 24 per cent and 27 per cent noted in the previous two years.

Readers will not be surprised to know that youth cricket continues to attract newcomers, with 13 per cent more boys and 27 per cent more girls than last year. Men's category rose by five per cent and women by 11 per cent. The only drawback with such a select study is that little is known about the large number of clubs outside the 'focus' family. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some smaller clubs might be struggling, perhaps village ones.

Another question raised by the survey is that if youth numbers are rising year on year, there should be a proportionate increase in adult participation as youth players graduate up the ranks, but men participation has risen by only five per cent. This suggests that an age-old problem persists -- youth cricketers are still dropping out of the game at about the 18-20 year old mark.

Commenting on the increase in participation across grassroots cricket David Collier, chief executive of the ECB, said: "For cricket to be able to satisfy this increase in demand it’s essential we continue to invest in building and renovating much-needed pavilions, pitches, and practice facilities. Without this continued level of investment there is no doubt we will not be able to cater for the increased number of children who are choosing to play cricket."

Off the field, the ECB said that the Sky Sports Coach Education Programme had helped deliver a 14 per cent increase in qualified cricket coaches, with the number of sessions going up by 13 per cent from 2008 levels. In the last four years this scheme has been responsible for bringing over 23,000 new coaches into the recreational game to cater for the ever-increasing numbers of children wanting to play cricket.

CHARLIE SAYS: Nevertheless there should be more cricket on terrestrial television.

Posted by Charlie Randall
30/11/2009 18:25:35

The lesson from Alcwyn's death

THE death of Alcwyn Jenkins during a club league match in Swansea last July has emphasised the importance of safety while umpiring and the need for the upmost concentration.

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Umpires have been severely injured by powerful shots standing at the bowler's end or at square-leg, but throw-ins can be equally dangerous, as was so devastatingly illustrated during the South Wales Cricket Association match between Swansea and Llangennech at the St Helen's ground.

Recruits at umpiring courses are aware that run-out adjudication should normally be made from the ball side, but they are told that any shot in the V must be treated with special caution and that the official should retreat to the safe side of the stumps. One umpire commented: "Theory is one thing, but it is very easy to forget with only a split second to think. You can easily find yourself on the thrower's side of the stumps and you can then get in the way of a throw to either end."

Jenkins, 72, a much-loved and respected umpire in South Wales, was hit on the back of the head and collapsed instantly. After frantic attempts to revive him, he died in an air ambulance on the way to hospital. The incident happened when the Glamorgan 2nd XI left-hander Rhodri Evans drove a ball from Llangennech off-spinner Stuart Goddard to mid-off and called a quick run to give the strike to his partner Rhodri Lloyd, on 99. Mid-off's attempted throw at the bowler's stumps hit the umpire a fearsome blow while he was looking at the crease. Swansea were captained by the former England A seam bowler Darren Thomas, and among his team-mates were James Harris (Glamorgan) and Daniel Rowe (ex-Leicestershire).

Steve Powell, a veteran member of the Swansea team, said the incident underlined the safety aspect. Umpires must retreat to the safe side as soon as possible even if their view of the stumps is impeded by the bowler or fielder.

Powell, no relation to the Glamorgan batsman Michael, added: "If there is any question of the breaking of the stumps, use the other umpire to confirm it was taken cleanly. Never, ever put yourself in a postion, that you consciously know as a cricketer is in line of the ball. We all know that feeling, so trust your cricketing judgement. If you get the other side there could be and argument you get in the way of anyone backing up and are still in line with the ball, but I feel your peripheral vision would help you ride any blow."

Jenkins' life was remembered at a packed funeral. "Alcwyn as a person was a one off," said Powell. "I toured Australia and New Zealand with him and knew him for 20 years. He was a friend of the players especially as an an umpire and dearly loved because of it. He understood the game far better than many who have encyclopedic knowledge of the laws."

In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler's end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call "dead ball" before collapsing in pain.

Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.

Posted by Charlie Randall
01/11/2009 19:27:38

ECB eases youth bowling limit

YOUTH fast bowlers will be permitted to bowl more overs per spell from next summer so that they can develop "match-winning habits" after the ECB announced a change of policy today, but the maximum overs per day in the 18 and 19 age group has been cut under new guidelines.

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The ECB Fast Bowling Directives have changed after a two-year consultation process. The main outcome is that bowlers up to under-15 level are now able to bowl longer spells and more overs in a day.

Under the new guidelines bowlers at under-16 and under-17 level are now permitted to bowl an extra over per spell, but those in the under-18 and under-19 category have had the total number of overs they can deliver per day reduced from 21 to 18.

These guidelines will come into effect for the start of the 2010 season. The ECB's guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the need to nurture and protect young fast bowlers through their formative years, a principle that has been followed by club cricket.

Kevin Shine, ECB lead fast bowling coach, said: "The Elite Fast Bowling Group has been researching injury prevention, performance enhancement and workloads for the past four years. The new recommendations mean youngsters under the age of 15 can now bowl an additional over in a spell and two overs more in a day. These figures are over and above the original directives.

"It is clear that our young bowlers need to bowl more so that they can develop match winning abilities and habits, and I look forward to the revised directives giving individual fast bowlers and teams more of a chance to play match winning cricket."

Research has shown that fast bowlers are by far the most likely cricketers to be missing playing and training time due to injury. The ECB say that for the purpose of these guidelines a fast bowler should be defined as a bowler to whom a wicketkeeper in the same age group would in normal circumstances stand back to take the ball.

ECB GUIDELINES

Age         Updated spell  Previous spell   Updated max  Previous max  

Up to 13:  5                  4                   10                  8

U14, U15:  6                 5                   12                 10

U16, U17:  7                 6                   18                 18

U18, U19:  7                 7                   18                 21

CHARLIE SAYS: The ECB have done the right thing. The guidelines are a sensible way of reducing injury risk and reigning in irresponsible clubs, but the 14 and 15 year group were penalised.

Posted by Charlie Randall
23/10/2009 15:10:21

Mackay: Surrey needs the clubs

THE Surrey managing director Gus Mackay has acknowledged there is a gap between his county and the clubs, but he feels he was misunderstood during the recent chaotic league dinner at Sandown Park.

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Mackay, cricket director Chris Adams and coach Ian Salisbury attended the Surrey Championship dinner at Sandown with all good intentions. When they stood up to face questions, hoping to reassure their audience that a new era was dawning at Surrey, the evening had already deteriorated. Master of ceremonies Henry Kelly had arrived an hour late and had lost control. Anger at his behaviour was sweeping through the room, and Mackay's attempts to bring order only drew accusations of arrogance.

The good impression that Mackay and his colleagues wanted to give became lost in the clamour. Their views were never properly heard that evening, and the apology the trio received afterwards from the dinner organisers was scant consolation.

Looking back at that night, memorable for all the wrong reasons, Mackay said he hoping to convince the room that the county wanted to strengthen links with their clubs. Much support work had been achieved already and the present management were determined to close a gap that had been widening. "Unfortunately much has gone on in the past and as a county we know we have work to do to win the clubs over," he said.

"We have worked closely with 36 clubs on club marque accreditation and development plans, and a further 17 are going through the process. We are working towards helping the balance of clubs," he said, "but unfortunately, by the look of it, the information about the work we are doing with those clubs to help develop their facilities and improve what they are trying to do is not getting out there."

Mackay was accused afterwards of strutting the stage and behaving arrogantly by refusing to answer questions from the floor, but Mackay denied this. He said: "We were trying to calm the audience down, which was pretty well fuelled, because I suppose they had been annoyed by the way the MC had gone about his duties. There was no way we were arrogant. We were just trying to get a message across.

"When you are standing up there getting questions that haven't come through the proper channel -- written down on paper -- and you have people asking questions that aren't really for the forum, it just wasn't the right time. In fact we were very open to questions. When an audience is dissatisfied, it is very difficult to claw things back."

One of the non-written questions fired at Mackay concerned the sacking of community coaches while the county club had big-spending plans on the playing front, an issue he did not address that evening. He said: "The development side has a completely different budget to the professional. The outside funding from the Government for community coaches was no longer available for whatever reason. The contracts of the community coaches simply came to an end, but we are trying to resolve this. We are working to try and continue with our programme, and I'm confident we will come up with a structure that will be better than before. The money we spend on development is over £1 million.

"I acknowledge there is a bit of 'history' here that we have to change. We can either say we are not going to do any more and close the door, but we are here to promote and develop the game. That's why we are here, why I am in place at Surrey -- very much to go out and make sure we bridge the gap between the county and our clubs for the development of the English game, because they are a source of talent for us.

"In the next 12 months we are going to find out what are the key issues the clubs have problems with and try and deal with those. Once, as a professional club, we get back to winning ways that will help, and we've got be proactive with our communications and work a lot more closely with the clubs."

Surrey might have had ambitious plans to strengthen the first team, but not much money was actually spent. "The professional budget is not going up," Mackay said. "We have released eight players and only signed three. So if anything the budget is going down."

But one interesting turn-up in the 2009 summer was the success of Surrey's second team in winning their county championship. "We took a policy decision to play home-grown talent, and at least threequarters of the side was just that," Mackay said. "That's an important thing. A couple of guys came in from outside on trial, but the majority were players who had come through our system. We can build something out of that, but it'll take time. We know that."

CHARLIE SAYS: This 'home-grown' policy for the second team provided some welcome evidence that Surrey were achieving a transparent progression for club players in the region, and if Surrey can keep a development structure for the recreational game properly funded, Mackay's aim to improve the relationship between county and club should succeed.

Just don't mention the name Henry Kelly.

Posted by Charlie Randall
23/10/2009 10:14:13

Gus Mackay angers club diners

SURREY'S new management of Chris Adams, Ian Salisbury and managing director Gus Mackay was called into question by disgusted club cricketers during the recent Surrey Championship awards dinner at Sandown Park, which was notable for a disastrous performance by the master of ceremonies and main speaker Henry Kelly.

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In a poorly handled question and answer session the Surrey guests refused to address leading topics raised from the floor such as the culling of development coaches during heavy spending on first-team players at the Brit Oval. Donald Kingsnorth, one of the 400 diners, said that, as Kelly lost control of the room, they "strutted the stage demanding respect like some fourth-form bullies."

Kingsnorth said the evening demonstrated a wide gulf between Surrey and the clubs. He added: "How unacceptably arrogant of Mackay it was to speak to the room in the manner he chose. As if his performance at Surrey was anything to boast about... Typically he refused to answers real questions put to him about the connection between Surrey CCC and the clubs. Yet again he used the excuse of this being the wrong forum, and yet when he arrives at regional development meetings he employs exactly the same tactics. When, then, would he be prepared to answer such questions? The antipathy of the whole room towards the county team was evident."

As for Kelly, whose speech was cut short humiliatingly by a show of hands from irate diners, the whole room was subjected to an array of insults and patronising comments. Kingsnorth, from Valley End CC, said: "We were the reasonable proud winners of two league titles this year, but when our 1st XI captain went to collect our award he was greeted by yet more insults from Mr Kelly. We were grouped with Thames Ditton and were met with the remark 'come on then whoever you are'.

"Well, Mr Kelly, we are Valley End Cricket club. Our 1st XI won their league in record fashion by mid July and are promoted for the third year in succession. Our 4th XI won Division One East at the first attempt. Last year we won the nPower National Village Cup at Lord's, and have recently been voted Surrey Sports Team of the Year 2009 by Surrey County Council.

"We, like everyone else in the room you insulted, provide recreational sport to hundreds and provide and introduce hundreds more young people to the benefits of sport in general and cricket in particular. Without us, all of us, there is no Surrey Championship, no County Club and no need to engage a master of ceremonies at dinners.

"Much damage was done on the awards night and the Championship management, who organised and are responsible for this farce, owe the members an apology and our money back. I look forward to seeing some contrition at future meetings."

Kingsnorth did mention that the whole out-of-control evening was "desperately sad but absolutely riveting", a view probably shared by many fellow diners. On the other hand nobody would want a repeat.

CHARLIE SAYS: Many counties have been breaking down barriers with their clubs for mutual benefit, but Surrey and their attitude to 'clubbies' is rooted in the dark ages. The county club would be well advised to take heed of the reaction at the Championship dinner and rebuild a relationship.

Posted by Charlie Randall
21/10/2009 19:27:39

Cricketers oust Henry Kelly

TELEVISION presenter Henry Kelly had his speech terminated by a show of hands among the 400-strong audience of dissatisfied diners at the Surrey Championship dinner at Sandown Park recently, according to the Surrey Advertiser newspaper.

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Journalist Richard Spiller attended this "anarchic" night in Esher, which started with the late arrival of Kelly, acting as master of ceremonies. "Kelly quickly lost the ear of his audience with a somewhat lame start in which he appeared to believe cricket was 15-per-side," wrote Spiller. "And in overseeing the presentation of trophies – 'it seems there’s something for everyone here,' Kelly said – he infuriated a number of clubs who were waiting to receive rewards after a long hard season, be it at first or fourth team level."

Kelly stumbled over several pronunciations, and when Thames Ditton and Valley End were called up, he added 'whoever you are'. That prompted Donald Kingsnorth, from Valley End, to say: "We felt insulted. We were recently voted Surrey sports team of the year, provide recreational cricket to hundreds and introduce many more to the benefits of sport and cricket in particular."

Spiller added that Kelly lost all control of the proceedings and resorted to demanding "respect" from his audience, some of whom had long stopped listening. Those continued to listen were increasingly irked by lectures from him about etiquette.

A question-and-answer involving Surrey managing director Gus Mackay, manager Chris Adams and coach Ian Salisbury was equally chaotic, not least when off-the-cuff questions – including one about the redundancy of several community coaches – rather than questions given in advance were deemed to be "in the wrong forum" and it was aborted.

Then as the rambling Kelly was given a slow handclap, one man got up to ask in disgust: "Are you being paid for tonight?" Kelly retorted: "So you've had your second drink then."

Another diner commented: "Kelly was bloody awful. Being late wasn't really a problem, he was just rude and boorish from the start."

Then came the final humiliation. Spiller said: "The audience was asked to take a vote on whether his speech should be heard, and those in favour did not even reach double figures. Thus ended the night in surreal style."

Posted by Charlie Randall
20/10/2009 15:53:28
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