STUART TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT

Stuart Broad is a remarkable young cricketer. Never mind his height although its upper limit — perhaps 6ft 9in — stretches further with every forecast, writes TED CORBETT.

August 28 — One of the unnoticed problems which results from umpire Darrell Hair's impetuous decision to award the fourth Test to England is that there are no presentations. The sponsors are very cross indeed and so are the spectators who miss those cringe-making ceremonies at which commentators have to read lists of names of the "official line-up." Today ECB make up for it by announcing, with much reference to the word official, that Andrew Strauss is the England Man of the Series for 444 runs and Mohammad Yousuf the Pakistan Man of the Series for his average of more than 90. Who is Man of the Match at the abruptly terminated Oval Test we will never know although it is unlikely to be Mr. Hair.

August 29 — There is obviously still quite a lot we must learn about the playing of this game and the present ball tampering controversy brings more of them to the attention of those of us who do not spend our entire lives considering how to cheat the nearest umpire. Today I hear of a form of attack that never crosses my path before: converse swing. (The fact that my spell checker accepts this word without a grumble is a sign that I am missing something but, hey, we cannot know everything, can we?) It appears that there is a technique by which the same ball can be made to produce both orthodox swing and reverse swing; thus converse swing. Of course, the technique is beyond the boundary but the whole business sounds fascinating and will perhaps add to the growing pressure on ICC through MCC to change the laws so that messing about with the ball — using a long finger nail or a rough hand — becomes legal. That gives ICC a fresh problem however. Suppose that the upcoming hearing finds Inzamam-ul-Haq guilty and imposes a punishment. If, six months later, scuffing the ball is acceptable, there is sure to be an outcry. Catch 22? All of that. More like damned if they do and damned if they don't. I think the only solution is for Ranjan Madugalle to bring in the old Scottish verdict of "not proven" which I hear is the choice of a very wise cricket man. People don't always listen to this sage but sometimes he is right.

August 30 — Cardiff! Not a place to hold a Test match of any sort much less one of the 2009 Ashes matches. I receive a blue car park pass so that my friend can drop her bag of equipment near the commentary box. When I get near to the car park I hear that only the disabled can get into that parking place although all her colleagues already leave their cars there. I explain to an impatient chief parking attendant. "Wait there," he says imperiously. He returns. "That car park is full. Go to the red car park." I go a mile to my car's new resting place. When I return I am forbidden to go through the press gate. "You have a pass," says another official. "You have to go that way." Happily this change of plan leads me past the blue car park. It is empty. Heaven help us when they have an important match to stage even though they have three years to practise. Still, the next morning a stand is torn down in preparation for the new Sophia Gardens, built by Welsh Tourist Board and Lottery money which is of course more important than tradition or anything so old fashioned as the ability to stage a match based on experience gained in 100 years. That is how Old Trafford has such a good reputation.

August 31 — Rumours sweep Cardiff that there is footage of a ball-tampering moment. Truly this subject is difficult and liable to lead to many unforeseen problems. ICC seem hell bent on holding the hearing which will bring 19 witnesses from Pakistan and therefore cost someone a fortune. It will also take up much unnecessary time, besides making the game appear foolish as many of those giving evidence will say only that they know nothing of ball tampering though they were close to the action. Abandon the hearing while the game remains intact, Mr. Speed. We will all be much better off without it.

September 1 — Enough of this Hair-brained rubbish let us talk youth and talent. Stuart Broad is a remarkable young cricketer. Never mind his height although its upper limit — perhaps 6ft 9in — stretches further with every forecast, nor his pace which ranges so high no-one should try it in a car. Broad is also the politest, least affected kid you can imagine. What is most amazing, in an era when a family bust-up is the excuse for all sorts of misbehaviour, is that Broad comes from a broken home. His father Chris, a former England Test opener, and his mother Carole part 15 years ago yet somehow Stuart not only remains a level-headed youngster but finds both parents watching him win the Young Cricketer of the Year award. "We are both just proud of the lad," says a clearly impressed Broad senior. "I just look forward to each game and try to enjoy myself," says young Broad. If he plays confidently in the limited overs games he can think of Christmas in Melbourne, New Year in Sydney and Easter in the Caribbean helping England in the Super Eight stages of the World Cup.

September 2 — Two Yorkshire leg spinners share 10 Middlesex wickets — you not only do not see that every day, it certainly never happens before. Even Geoff Boycott loves the idea. "We have a stack of youngsters," he says, "and we want to base our team next summer on youth. The big problem is to find a leader, someone who can bring the best out of the kids." So come on, all you overseas players with a season to spare. Give Boycs a ring if you think you can handle some of the most talented lads in cricket.

September 3 — Throughout the week the text service on ITV1, has an advertisement on its cricket page, which simply asks "Thinning Hair?" Now there is a job not to be undertaken lightly. Incidentally, there is only one formal, staged photograph of Darrell Hair since his latest brush with fame. He has gone to ground and only issues statements when it suits him. He does certainly not pose for pictures — so why this one of him and his wife Amanda against the background of the Lincolnshire countryside where they live? Because the photographer is one Graham Morris, not only an internationally known snapper but the best man at the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Hair.