The debate about the right to first-class status of University games reared its head again yesterday. Once again, another grotesque mismatch with county opposition was played out against the seemingly tranquil backdrop of the dreaming spires of the River Cam.
At precisely sometime after Neighbours, England’s Kevin Pietersen strode to the wicket against the undergraduates of St Brearley’s College, Cambridge. At the other end waited the bowler, malnourished bookworm Nigel Cleggout, who is in his first year of Countdown studies.
Cleggout shambled through his run-up apologetically and served up his gentle brand of left-arm spin.
The pressure of the big occasion was clearly too much for Pietersen and the plucky son of the veldt soon edged apologetically to slip, giving Cleggout a routine wicket that he celebrated with a Pot Noodle. Once again, the can of thorns that is the right of England middle-order walking wickets to take on left-arm tweakers at student/village level was thrown wide open.
“To be fair to the young man, he’s give it everything but I guess at the end of the day a good big one’s always going to beat a good little one and he’s just not had the experience at this level,” said undergraduate spin-king Cleggout, whose previous best bowling came on the Nintendo Wii or PlayStation or something.
Senior figures in the game were even more outspoken.
“England players should be warming up for a big summer against players of their own level,” said veteran doom-monger Bob Willis. “Not being bent over by these mystery left-armers who are clearly way out of their league. Get Pietersen in against an England international spinner like a Tredwell or a Yardy: give him some meaningful confidence-boosting practice.”
Meanwhile, Andy Flower has once again raised questions about the wisdom of a constant treadmill of matches in which Pietersen doesn’t score any runs.
“If he doesn’t stop getting out soon, the ECB are really going to have to give me a massive payrise to carry on putting up with this,” said the England supremo.
“I could have gone to India, you know,” he added. “Do you think Sachin flipping Tendulkar is getting mugged off by some student twirlyman 10 days before a Test?”
“I don’t think so, pal,” said Flower.
Meanwhile, Surrey’s young skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown has asked some of the students if he can, like, crash on their floor if he comes up to Cambridge for a school open day.
By Alan Tyers
CrickiLeaks: The Secret Ashes Diaries by Tyers and Beach is out now. Have a look at it here