Flower, Fletcher and a remarkable century: Richard Gibson

England’s second Test series of the summer against India will provide a fascinating off-field duel between coaches Andy Flower and Duncan Fletcher.

No one will be more interested in it, however, than Steve James, who is writing a book on the role played by each of the two Zimbabweans in dragging England off the canvas at the start of the Noughties – they were officially the world’s worst Test team when Fletcher took over in 1999 – and transforming them into serial Ashes winners.

The working title for the book is Making a Plan: Fletcher, Flower and the Renaissance of English Cricket. Neither is anyone better placed to compare and contrast the pair than James, who featured under Fletcher for Glamorgan and later ghosted his autobiography Behind the Shades, and also got to know Flower during five seasons as a player in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Fletcher’s media responsibilities with India are much reduced compared to his seven-year tenure with England. Given his surly nature at press conferences, this will be no bad thing for both sides.

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Fletcher, meanwhile, is keen to get one of his ex-backroom staff on board for the tour of England, with Trevor Penney the preferred choice as fielding coach. The complication is that Penney, another Zimbabwean, is on a shortlist of three for Sri Lanka’s head coach vacancy.

Yet surprising noises from Colombo suggest that Fletcher’s former assistant Matthew Maynard has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Australian Trevor Bayliss, with Stuart Law, currently in the job in temporary capacity, interesting Bangladesh.

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As hundreds go, John Day’s for Birmingham League club Water Orton’s second team against Sutton Coldfield on June 5 was pretty remarkable. Not only is the club chairman 70, he also underwent revolutionary heart surgery less than 12 months ago, during which he was technically dead and preserved in ice for several hours.

Day entered the final over of the 40-over contest unbeaten on 94, struck the first ball for four and then launched a six over midwicket to get to three figures in style. He finished on 104 in a score of 164 for eight as visitors Sutton won the Warwickshire Sunday League match by 136 runs – but feats like Day’s deem mere results irrelevant.

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There is an interesting name at the head of the leaderboard for club cricket’s most valuable player of 2011. At 28, James Benning should be in the prime of his career, having been tipped as a future England one-day player when breaking through with Surrey. But he has somehow dropped out of the professional ranks following release by Leicestershire last September.

Four years ago his name was mentioned in dispatches when it came to the first post-World Cup squad. Now his playing commitments are limited to matches for Buckinghamshire and High Wycombe at the weekends.

Two hundreds and 10 new-ball wickets in his first four Home Counties Premier League matches this season have seen him take a significant early lead in the national award, run by Cricket World and sponsored by Kingfisher lager.

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Lancashire’s quest for a first outright County Championship title for 77 years has undoubtedly been boosted by favourable weather. Statistically, the Red Rose county lost less time than all other 17 counties bar Somerset on their way to five wins from their opening seven Division One matches.

Glen Chapple’s team were denied less than four per cent of scheduled playing time during April and May. As a Yorkshireman I would hate to rain on their parade but a word of caution, nevertheless – August and September, when the four-day competition concludes, are traditionally the wettest months in the north-west.

Follow me on Twitter: @richardgibson74

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