Fitness challenge and a badly kept secret

A myth was exploded in spectacular fashion this week when three young Yorkshire players, fronted by Jonathan Bairstow, proved that modern-day cricketers are the equals in fitness terms of their contemporaries in football and rugby. In a challenge devised by sports nutrition company Multipower, which included several tests of speed, power, strength and agility, Yorkshire’s trio finished second, between winners Castleford Tigers and npower Championship team Sheffield United. England performance programme player Bairstow, 21 this week, shared the accolade for best individual score with United’s Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic, who was clearly not anticipating such fierce competition prior to the testing at United’s Shirecliffe training base. “Yes, it did surprise me,” said Bogdanovic. “I thought cricketers would be the same as snooker players or volleyball players – they seem to do a lot of standing around.” But Richard Pyrah, who competed alongside Bairstow and James Lee, emphasised the change of ethos on the county circuit these days. “The era of 20 pints and a packet of fags after a day’s play has long gone,” he panted.


One of county cricket’s worst-kept secrets will be made public before the end of the month: Jacques Rudolph’s four-year stay at Headingley is over. Although the popular South African, a Kolpak player since 2007, has 12 months to run on his contract with Yorkshire, he is understood to be quitting for family reasons. Rumours that he wished to return to international cricket with the Proteas surfaced in late season but his wife Elna’s desire to quit Leeds, where she struggled to settle, and start a family back home was the primary motive in the decision. Official discussions to sever his contract were scheduled for this week but the recent actions of the 29-year-old’s team-mates told their own story. Regular opening partner Adam Lyth applauded ostentatiously when Rudolph was dismissed for just 13 on the penultimate evening of the County Championship season while bear-hugs on the field with each of his colleagues followed the four-wicket defeat to Kent the following afternoon. Yorkshire in turn hope Ryan Sidebottom’s desire for a settled family life in Huddersfield is the clincher to secure his return seven years after quitting the club.


Ian Gould intends to be in Mumbai for April’s World Cup final in one capacity or another. ICC elite official Gould continues his international umpiring duties – now so time-consuming they recently put pay to his stint as chairman of non-league football club Burnham – with Australia’s upcoming series in India and remains confident of his chances of making the match officials’ list for the 50-over competition’s showpiece on Indian soil in six months’ time. But, the patriotic ‘Gunner’ would be just as happy to take a place in the stands – as he did for the ICC World Twenty20 final earlier this year – if it means England’s presence scuppers his chances of making it into the middle.


Any lingering feelings that Andrew Flintoff’s retirement left a career unfulfilled will no doubt be shared by publishers Hodder & Stoughton, who still have two books remaining on their current deal with the 32-year-old. His most recent offering Ashes to Ashes chronicled the 2009 victory over Australia – his last action in first-class cricket – which makes it difficult to envisage what will be left to explore in future publications.

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