OTHERS

Rain plays spoilsport

CHESTER-LE-STREET, JUNE 16. As we drove through torrential rain on the old North Road on Friday we knew that chances of play between Australia and Pakistan in the sixth one-day International of the triangular tournament were remote and when we drove into a Riverside car park deep in mud this morning it looked as if the match might have already been declared defunct.

The official mind would not be gainsaid however and kept the miserable spectators huddled under their umbrellas, those enthusiastic young Pakistani lads looking as if their lives had been ruined and the few tanned Australians wondering why they had come half way round the world. The call-off did not come until two o'clock when the ground was almost empty.

The fans from the north-east were not the only miserable men in cricket today. The England selectors, faced with nine successive defeats, dark humiliation at Old Trafford under the lights and the prospect of more losses looming have decided that a full post-mortem is the only solution and they intend to meet in London, as the final is being played between Australia and Pakistan, to decide how to move forward.

One theory is that the defeat against Pakistan in the second Test at Old Trafford started the rot, since eight wickets were lost after tea on the final day. Then came the defeat by Pakistan at Lord's - when it seemed easier to win - and the record low score at Old Trafford on Thursday when the floodlights were inadequate and the conditions favoured the seam bowling of Glenn McGrath and the fit-again Jason Gillespie.

Without Nasser Hussain, whose finger will be healed in time for the Ashes series next month, the England spirit is never as buoyant; but the most important decisions lie in the future. England is placing great faith in its move to its academy, which will soon be housed in Bisham Abbey with other sporting disciplines but which will begin life at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide this winter.

England will send young players - the A team has been abandoned although it produced Hussain, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and many others - and older players to work on specific skills to Adelaide. Jason Brown's batting and Afzaal Usman's fielding are obvious cases for treatment. But is it the right answer? It works for the Australians but county cricket is in itself a learning process; why not stick with it? The same question applies to floodlights. They work beautifully in the depths of the semi- tropical night but in this country, with its long summer evenings, they are not so effective.

Yet they are with us for another five years at least or as long as they are a condition of the contract with Sky TV. Or until someone suggests 50-over matches in daylight, played in white clothing; or it is decided to play all the one-day games in Scotland where June nights are light until almost midnight. There also appeared to be too few lights at Old Trafford and that can be remedied.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hopes to prevent any talk of match-fixing by appointing a security man to accompany its team both at home and abroad. Inevitably he will be known as the spy in the dressing room but perhaps his presence will warn off bookmakers as well as reminding players of the folly of mixing with such undesirables. England has stayed clear of all bribery and corruption except for the unsubstantiated claims of Mukesh Gupta, who says that he paid Alec Stewart money for inside information. The suggestion comes from Lord Condon, whose report into corruption within the game has now been discussed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). It will reveal its reaction on Monday.