Geoff is over the worst of his illness

The Test victory is the main talking point, but there are interesting folk behind the scenes at Trent Bridge.


August 18. The Test victory is the main talking point, but there are interesting folk behind the scenes at Trent Bridge. England and Nottinghamshire opening batsman Chris Broad, now happily married for the second time and concentrating on his new business as a screen printer; Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Boycott convinced that Geoff is over the worst of his illness; umpire Dickie Bird, seen on the pitch in his usual place behind the stumps and staring 20 yards as if waiting for an appeal. Mrs. Pippa Kirtley, mother of the Man of the Match; Professor Jonathon Smith, father of Ed Smith and co-author with Chris Cowdrey of the book Good Enough; Brian Bolus and Michael Atherton, keen debaters on the merits of various players when they are both selectors, continuing a war of words; Graeme Pollock, first of the family on the honours board in the pavilion Long Room, alongside his brother Peter who is the father of Shaun and now grandfather to a baby girl.

Pretty well everything that is wrong with English cricket is demonstrated in the incident in which Marcus Trescothick (right) and Mark Butcher come off when offered the light even though they are scoring runs all round the ground. — Pic. TOM SHAW/GETTY IMAGES-

August 19. John James Ferris is the only bowler to produce better figures than James Kirtley on a debut against South Africa. But 'Jack' Ferris is no nervy 18-year-old, quivering in his boots as he bowls his first ball in Cape Town in 1891. He is already 24, with eight Tests for Australia to his credit since leaving his first job as a bank clerk. In those days lines of demarcation are much looser so that when Ferris begins to qualify for Gloucestershire after taking nine for 74 at the Oval against England in 1890 he is asked to tour South Africa and plays in the only Test where he captures 13 wickets for 91 including the seven for 37 which beats Kirtley. The story is that he is made so many presentations when he leaves his home town Sydney to settle in Bristol that he "arrives in England laden with gold watches and cigarette cases." Ferris is a left-arm quickish bowler skilled in changes of pace and whose Test career for Australia is noted for his wonderful partnership with "Terror" Turner. On the South Africa tour he manages 235 wickets; don't ask about the quality of the opposition. In all he also takes 48 wickets at 14.25 for Australia. He is never the same bowler for Gloucestershire and eventually his skills desert him. So he joins the British Army and at 33 dies of enteric fever while serving with the Imperial Light Horse in Durban during the Boer War. Don't think he is the only character on that tour of South Africa. Walter Read, once a schoolteacher, helps revive Surrey's fortunes in the 1880s and is one of the last of the lob — that is underarm — bowlers. During the Oval Test of 1884 he is so furious at being sent in at No.10 that he "takes it out of the Australian bowlers" by scoring 117 in two hours. Oh, for characters like that today.

August 20. Some of the media gather for fish and chips at Bretts, a famous Leeds cafe. But what are we to make of this strange little word? Media is, to those beyond the closed circle, consists of a nafarious grouping of men and women from newspapers, radio and television, commentating with more or less authority on the doings of those who play. If George Bernard Shaw is still alive he will rewrite his saying "Those who can, do; those who can't teach" to read: "Those who can play; those who retire join the media." In the Press centre at Trent Bridge for instance there are: Mike Gatting, Michael Atherton, Graham Gooch, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, David Lloyd, Dermot Reeve, Mark Nicholas, Barry Richards, David Houghton, Angus Fraser, Derek Pringle, David Gower and Ian Smith. Not a bad tour squad, even if there is only Ian Smith to keep wicket. So is it the international cricketers turned journalists who are being accused when Nasser Hussain waves his fist towards the centre after making his century on the first day? Maybe. Or is it the professionals who give him a standing ovation at his last Press conference as captain? He will have to be careful. He spends too much of his time and earns too much from his own column and TV work to criticise the media too heavily, especially now the word retirement is being mentioned. But let's not forget the golden rule. To almost everyone, the word means "those who mock — except for my group." Newspapers writing about the media mean radio and television; TV presenters begin their analysis of the day's papers by announcing "Let's have a look at what the media is saying this morning." It is all me, me, me; but a lot more of them, them, them.

August 21. I'm not sure what to make of this next story. When James Kirtley takes all those wickets his mother Pippa tells us that she believes his grandfather, now dead, baptises Curtly Ambrose whose parents name their son after him. It was an old-time custom, so the story goes. I'm not convinced. I know that the slave forefathers of Cassius Clay are named after their owner; my history graduate mother insists that although Corbett is a name from the main man in William the Conqueror's Army "don't forget they name their slaves after the owners too." Ambrose is also named for Ray Lindwall — although his birth certificate misspells the name as "Lynwall." And James Kirtley plays at Sussex alongside Tim Ambrose. Pass me a pinch of salt, please.

August 22. Pretty well everything that is wrong with English cricket is demonstrated in the incident in which Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher come off when offered the light even though they are scoring runs all round the ground. First of all it is nothing to do with the umpires who get the blame in some papers; the batsmen have the right to decide. Both are senior players, mentioned at various times as possible England captains. Secondly, the South African fielders are worse off than the batsmen because they have no idea where the ball is going next, while the batsmen can make an educated guess. And why did neither the new captain Michael Vaughan nor the experienced coach Duncan Fletcher not anticipate the move and order Butcher and Trescothick to stay in the middle. There is, after all, only one light showing when they are asked if they want to go. I lose count of the former England players who phone to protest. "Don't they understand the game," is the mildest question. I think the answer is that they don't.

August 23. Trescothick admits in his favourite newspaper that he makes the decision but the players turn their minds to more important matters. A feng shui expert calls on the England dressing room and rearranges it so that the atmosphere helps Andrew Flintoff who makes four successive noughts in his only Tests at Headingley. The lady even moves his position in the dressing room from one corner to another and, lo and behold, out goes the brave Flintoff to hit sixes and fours and almost guide England to a first innings lead. Perhaps she will make England win if she rearranges the whole ground on which Yorkshire propose to spend 25 million pounds in the next few years. They already offer a prize for the best pavilion plan. But how long can they expect to keep their Test status which disappears for the Ashes series next summer? Not long, with the Riverside, the new Hampshire ground and a revitalised Trent Bridge putting on such a brave show.

August 24. Smith appears to be such a common name that it does not suit England's latest batting trialist, a polymath if ever one is born. When Ed Smith makes runs — including six centuries this summer — for Kent and England he is ET Smith but when he writes book reviews for the posh newspapers he is Edward T Smith. In this year's Who's Who of Cricketers he claims his nickname is Smudge, in 2002 he is Smudger, which are common nicknames for the Smiths. From 1997 to 2000 he is Jazzer and in 2001 he is Hughie. Now he is writing his second book and he is being urged to write a novel. Under what name will that appear? E Thomas Smith?