A BATSMAN'S MATCH

Had Chris Read played as the WICKET-KEEPER BATSMAN instead of Geraint Jones England might well have won the Lord's Test, feels TED CORBETT.

At about this time of the season 10 years ago only one question would have troubled those who follow the fortunes of England at close hand. Who will be The Damager this winter? For Damager read Tour Manager. He was an important figure on England trips abroad and he no longer exists.

In the last 25 years the tour manager has usually been a distinguished figure from the list of administrators. Doug Insole, captain of Essex and the club chairman, Peter Lush, public relations man at Lord's, Alan Smith, later secretary of the Test and County Cricket Board, Mike Smith, former England captain, David Brown, of Gloucestershire and the England and Wales Cricket Board, Bob Bennett, chairman of Lancashire, John Barclay captain of Sussex; all these men were known in the England dressing room as The Damager at one time or another.

Their duties were to hold the purse strings, act as chairman at selection committee meetings — "he pours the coffee," one England captain used to say — and on rare occasions when young cricketers got out of hand, to be judge and jury at disciplinary hearings.

They were also the contact with the high officials overseas, made nice speeches when the occasion demanded, visited schools, saw that bats and autograph books were signed, talked to the press, negotiated changes in itinerary and kept in touch with the admin men back home.

I have probably missed out one or two jobs because their duties were many and varied.

Now the post has gone. There are two reasons. It is difficult to find men who can spare four months of their winter to look after 16 cricketers and the coaching staff. And Duncan Fletcher, the coach, feels he can look after that side of the tour — with considerable help from his No. 2 Phil Neale — on his own.

I have regular arguments with my best pal at the top end of cricket administration about the need for a tour manager. He says the present system works well. I say there is still a need for a Damager and that one day we may rue his absence.

But there is a consequence to this lack of a man to either pour the coffee at selection committee meetings or to send home those naughty boys who persistently disobey the rules.

Coach Fletcher does not want in his side the extreme cricketers who may, in moments of stress, cause problems. Hence the absence of the best wicket-keeper in the country Chris Read from the team and, last winter, the tour party.

No one is quite sure what crime Read committed on Fletcher's tour of South Africa in 1999-2000 and indeed there may not have been any crime. Perhaps a little over-enthusiastic celebrating, a wrong word here or there, a social indiscretion, a minor incident involving too robust a song.

Whatever it was, it convinced the coach that one day Read might commit a greater offence and that would involve disciplinary action which would get in the way of the team's efficiency.

So, last winter in India and Pakistan, England had the Sussex wicket-keeper and high scoring batsman Matthew Prior. That selection did not work so the search is on for another 'keeper. There has been no attempt to look for a new Damager, by the way. That option has been forgotten, although as I say to my pal on a regular basis, one is still needed.

I also note that Pakistan have a former Army officer helping their coach Bob Woolmer with off-the-field duties and discipline. Not that much in the way of discipline is needed in a side bound together by a common religion and good family backgrounds.

Meanwhile Read stays on the sidelines, scoring big hundreds in front of the stumps and acting as if he was the new Alan Knott/Ian Healy/Bob Taylor/Jack Russell when he is wearing those oversized gloves.

He is clearly not wanted although I hear that the two selectors who help Fletcher pick the team outvoted him after a 90-minute debate when the squad of elite players was chosen, including Read.

It was quite evident to me that Read might have made the tiny difference between a drawn match and an England victory against Pakistan in the first Test at Lord's.

England dominated the match yet on the fourth evening they failed to press for runs and declare.

One reason was their determination to see that Andrew Strauss, the stand-in captain, reached his century. Only two other England players have made a hundred on their debut as skipper — Allan Lamb on the 1989-90 tour of West Indies and Archie MacLaren at Sydney in 1897-98 — and I have no problem with the team's concern that he should join that tiny group.

But soon afterwards, with Strauss still scoring brisk runs, there was a hold-up at the other end as Geraint Jones struggled with his own poor form and inhibitions because he realised everyone was expecting another failure.

England needed a quick fifty and he needed a solid performance. In the end he made 16 and looked completely out of touch.

The whole team also suffered from the effects of the last 10 months. Injuries have led to poor results, the defeats have led to a lack of confidence, and now, after six successive beatings by Sri Lanka, including the Test beating at Trent Bridge and the whitewash in the one-day series, England were glad simply to stop the rot.

Centuries from Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell gave them a first innings total of 528 for nine declared. Pakistan, guided by the Man of the Match Mohammad Yousuf with his second double hundred in successive Tests against England, got to within 83 of England but, on a batsman's dream pitch, England set them to make 380 in 80 overs. Or, more to the point, gave themselves 80 overs to claim 10 wickets, and shook hands with eight overs remaining.

If they had been able to declare an hour before the close on the fourth evening they might have won the day but if the leg spin of Danish Kaneria and Shahid Afridi could not get more than four wickets in England's second innings it was always going to be difficult for Monty Panesar with his traditional slow left-arm spin.

I like the Panesar style, his enthusiasm and his skills. One day he is sure to win a Test but at the moment he needs a few more years on his back although I do not mean that he should be sent back to Northamptonshire to complete his apprenticeship.

You have to be a clever slow left-arm bowler to take wickets in Australia where they are as rare as flying crocodiles. But it might be a worthwhile experiment to send Panesar and Ashley Giles, who swears he is near fitness for all he is still using crutches, as they are the best spinners England have. Who knows there might even be room for a Damager and Chris Read on the same tour.

THE SCORES

First Test, Lord's, July 13 to 17. Match drawn.

England — 1st innings: M. E. Trescothick c Kamran Akmal b Umar Gul 16; A. J. Strauss lbw b Abdul Razzaq 30; A. N. Cook b Mohammad Sami 105; K. P. Pietersen lbw b Razzaq 21; P. D. Collingwood st. Akmal b Danish Kaneria 186; I. R. Bell (not out) 100; G. O. Jones lbw b Kaneria 18; L. E. Plunkett c Imran Farhat b Kaneria 0; M. J. Hoggard lbw b Shahid Afridi 13; S. J. Harmison (run out) 2; M. S. Panesar (not out) 0; Extras (b-8, w-15, nb-14) 37; Total (for nine wkts. decl.) 528.

Fall of wickets: 1-60, 2-60, 3-88, 4-321, 5-441, 6-469, 7-473, 8-515, 9-525.

Pakistan bowling: Sami 28-4-116-1; Gul 33-6-133-1; Razzaq 25-2-86-2; Kaneria 52-6-119-3; Afridi 19.3-0-63-1; Farhat 1-0-3-0.

Pakistan — 1st innings: Salman Butt c Strauss b Harmison 10; Imran Farhat b Plunkett 33; Faisal Iqbal c Collingwood b Harmison 0; Mohammad Yousuf c Jones b Harmison 202; Mohammad Sami c Jones b Hoggard 0; Inzamam-ul-Haq b Plunkett 69; Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 22; Kamran Akmal c Jones b Pietersen 58; Shahid Afridi c Bell b Hoggard 17; Umar Gul c Jones b Hoggard 0; Danish Kaneria (not out) 1; Extras (b-7, lb-14, w-7, nb-5) 33; Total 445.

Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-28, 3-65, 4-68, 5-241, 6-300, 7-399, 8-435, 9-436.

England bowling: Hoggard 33-3-117-3; Harmison 29.3-6-94-4; Panesar 27-3-93-0; Plunkett 21-3-78-2; Collingwood 7-1-31-0; Pietersen 2-0-11-1.

England — 2nd innings: M. E. Trescothick b Gul 18; A. J. Strauss c Farhat b Kaneria 128; A. N. Cook c Mohammad Yousuf b Gul 4; K. P. Pietersen st. Akmal b Afridi 41; P. D. Collingwood c Butt b Kaneria 3; I. R. Bell (run out) 28; G. O. Jones c Akmal b Kaneria 16; L. E. Plunkett c Akmal b Razzaq 28; M. J. Hoggard (not out) 12; Extras (b-5, lb-6, w-1, nb-6) 18; Total (for eight wkts. decl.) 296.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-64, 3-141, 4-146, 5-203, 6-250, 7-253, 8-296.

Pakistan bowling: Sami 6-1-23-0; Gul 19-4-70-2; Kaneria 30-4-77-3; Razzaq 9.5-0-45-1; Afridi 19-1-65-1; Farhat 1-0-5-0.

Pakistan — 2nd innings: Salman Butt lbw b Hoggard 0; Imran Farhat c Collingwood b Hoggard 18; Faisal Iqbal c Cook b Panesar 48; Mohammad Yousuf lbw b Panesar 48; Inzamam-ul-Haq (not out) 56; Abdul Razzaq (not out) 25; Extras (b-1, lb-8, w-6, nb-4) 19; Total (for four wkts.) 214.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-33, 3-116, 4-141.

England bowling: Hoggard 12-3-31-2; Harmison 15-3-43-0; Plunkett 12-2-41-0; Panesar 27-7-60-2; Pietersen 5-1-19-0; Collingwood 2-0-11-0.