The England and Wales Cricket Board’s National Performance Centre’s indoor facilities at Loughborough will be out of bounds for the entire month of August as the nets undergo a complete re-fit.
In what is the centre’s first overhaul since the Queen opened the facility on November 14, 2003, the sports hall will be given a makeover worth thousands of pounds. The hi-tech surface which incorporates five pitches of contrasting pile – two designed for spinners to bowl on, two quicker ones for the pace bowlers and a middle-of-the-road track for the medium-pacers – will be ripped up and a new one laid, while all the surrounding netting is to be replaced.
However, the clearing out process, including equipment being stored elsewhere around the University campus, was halted temporarily when England coach Andy Flower requested use of the base two days before the start of the Trent Bridge Test. Both England and India then booked it for Thursday, July 28, in the event of bad weather.
Access to equipment was minimal: a couple of bowling machines were left out for use in a sparse practice area – the photographs that adorn the hall walls, of all academy graduates to have gone on to score international hundreds or take five-wicket hauls since the first intake headed for Adelaide in 2001, were carefully numbered and stored for putting back up when the John Ferguson Building becomes fully operational again in September.
August, the height of the domestic season, may seem an odd time for the renovation but it is actually one of the quieter periods of the year. Since Peter Moores’ stint as academy director, the midlands site has become the home to all England teams from age groups upwards in both men’s and women’s cricket, and the centre has wall-to-wall bookings throughout the winter as squads prepare for overseas tours.
Australian Damien Wright’s appointment as New Zealand’s bowling coach this week has confirmed his playing days are officially over.
Wright, 36, quit with Victoria at the end of the 2010-11 season but was coaxed out of retirement just weeks later when Worcestershire sought a short-term overseas signing.
Such was his success at New Road – his 31 Division One County Championship wickets cost fewer than 27 runs apiece – that prior to departure in early June he had considered returning for one last hurrah in England in 2012, either with Worcestershire or another county.
Unfortunately, the unusual two-finger saluting between England bowlers James Anderson and Graeme Swann during the Lord’s win over India was not reflective of their personal tussle to become Test cricket’s number two-ranked bowler (Anderson leapfrogged Swann after a seven-wicket match haul), nice as that would have been, but a celebration first introduced to the team by vice-captain Alastair Cook.
Marcus Trescothick’s sixth County Championship hundred of the season, in the first innings against Worcestershire at New Road, took in a significant moment when he reached 117. It raised his 2011 Division One run tally to a whopping 1515 – exactly 50 per cent more than his nearest rival, Durham’s Dale Benkenstein.
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