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Wisden Almanack 2024

Wisden Almanack editor: Cricket’s administrators need to distribute cash according to need, not greed

Shamar Joseph celebrated West Indies win
Lawrence Booth by Lawrence Booth
@the_topspin 5 minute read

The notes by Almanack editor Lawrence Booth originally appeared in the 2024 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

It’s nearly 6,000 miles between Brisbane and Hyderabad, but on January 28, 2024, the cities seemed joined at the hip. At the Gabba, Shamar Joseph – a Guyanese fast bowler from the village of Baracara who had once worked in the logging trade – took 7-68 in his second Test appearance. A few hours later, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Tom Hartley – a Lancastrian spinner from the town of Ormskirk previously employed by his family’s horticulture business – took 7-62 on Test debut. West Indies won by eight runs, their first Test victory against Australia in more than 20 years. England, having stunned India by overturning a deficit of 190, won by 28. It was a joy trying to choose the more breathtaking.

The night before he entered folklore, Joseph had taken a yorker flush on the big toe; it was unclear whether he could walk out of the hotel, let alone run in at more than 90mph and send the Australians into freefall. Hartley, meanwhile, had been hit all over the place in India’s first innings, sparking fresh despair at the state of English spin, and renewed mockery of Bazball. But a Test offers room to breathe, time to recover; it can stir the blood, touch the soul. Between them, a pair of 24-year-olds from the generation said to be lost to T20 made a rousing case for a struggling format. Should Test cricket be killed off, January 28 – Super Sunday, they called it – may feature prominently in the eulogy.

If Hyderabad was another staging post for an English Test revolution that thrilled everyone bar the po-faced and the one-eyed, Brisbane confirmed the growing gap between rhetoric and reality: the more we’re told world cricket needs a strong West Indies, the less world cricket seems to do about it. Their absence from the World Cup in India ought to have troubled the whole game. In the era of global television, the West Indians have been hardest hit among the major Test teams. Split into 15 countries or territories, the Caribbean cricket community has no unifying broadcaster with whom overseas boards can do deals. The sale of TV rights is further handicapped by a distant time zone and a diminutive population. Travel costs are punitive, both at home, where hotels cater for rich tourists, and abroad, with most trips involving three business-class flights each way. The winter visits of their women’s and men’s teams to Australia cost Cricket West Indies roughly $2m; TV production costs them about $5m a year. And their normal annual turnover is around $50m.

That made the ICC’s redistribution of funds in July all the harder to stomach. India’s slice of the pie had grown from less than 25 percent to 38.5 percent, or close to $230m a year, leaving the 11 other Full Members to enjoy percentages ranging from 6.89 (England) to 2.80 (Afghanistan). West Indies receive 4.58 percent, or $27.5m. Worse, the split was calculated using factors that entrenched the inequality. They included a nation’s contribution to the broadcasting pot: useful if, like India, your population is 1.4 billion; less so if, like West Indies, it’s closer to six million. Another factor was success at global events, where home advantage matters: these days, World Cups are staged mainly in India, Australia and England, already the three richest boards.

India’s payday was waved through for two reasons: everyone earned a little more than before; and no one wants to upset the Indians, because they generate most of cricket’s wealth. This is true, but perspective is needed. Two years ago, the BCCI sold the streaming and TV rights for the Indian Premier League for $6bn, two and a half times the value of the previous deal. In terms of permatch value, the IPL is now behind only American football’s NFL. And it will get bigger, further diminishing the need for bilateral international cricket. For more context, the sale in January 2023 of the five franchises for the new Women’s Premier League earned the BCCI $575m. An annual handout of $230m is chicken feed for India; for everyone else, it is unimaginable riches. And if it’s also true that the BCCI have numerous state associations to fund, then Sharda Ugra demonstrated in a seminal article for The Caravan that Indian cricket’s finances are nothing if not a mystery. Few can say how the money is spent; fewer seem minded to ask.

Yet this is where cricket finds itself, in dreary thrall to the notion that market forces must be obeyed, while patronising the West Indian game with backhanded compliments, when what it needs is hard cash. There’s plenty of that in cricket’s central pot. Is it really beyond the wit of the administrators to distribute it according to need, not greed – and to give us a chance of a few more Super Sundays before the bailiffs come knocking?

The English larrikins

As Britain froze in the winter, a tweet arrived to warm the cockles. Tickets for the first three days of the Edgbaston Test against West Indies in late July had sold out – unprecedented so far in advance of a non-Ashes match (and a few weeks before Joseph stole the show at Brisbane). Amid the gloomy outlook for Test cricket, here was a glimmer of hope: proof that if you put on a show, bums will fill seats. And the 2023 Ashes were a show all right, up there with 1981 and 2005. But for rain in Manchester, it might even have rivalled Australia’s Don Bradman-inspired 1936/37 victory, still the only series in Test history won by a team who had trailed 2-0.

Ashes cricket has traditionally been a study in national stereotypes: Australia throw punches, England parry. But the roles were reversed last summer, and then some. As the two captains stood in the Oval sunshine at the end of a pulsating 2-2 draw, they personified the contrast: the matinee-idol clean shave of Pat Cummins, framed by his Baggy Green and cricket whites; and, beside him, beneath a bucket hat, the bearded Ben Stokes, tattooed biceps bulging from a blue gilet. England oozed rebellion, Australia convention.

The scoreline was almost secondary. For the first time since English cricket vanished behind a paywall, it felt like the people’s sport: Bazball was on their lips and, before long, in the Collins Dictionary. Fans lapped up the unorthodoxy, even as it filled them with mild terror. And they were beguiled by the clash of styles, as if watching Borg v McEnroe, or Italy v Brazil. None clashed more than two openers: England’s Zak Crawley scored 480 runs from 541 balls, Australia’s Usman Khawaja 496 off 1,263. Was it better to be brief but belligerent, or protracted but worthy? Forget the Ashes: at stake was the essence of Test cricket.

A good job, too, because the story elsewhere is less compelling. In the most deflating example, South Africa’s home Test summer amounted to four and a half days, thanks to spicy pitches at Centurion and Cape Town; soon after, they sent a third-string team to New Zealand because their best players were contracted to a lucrative domestic T20 competition. And yet the men’s Ashes and an equally gripping women’s series were watched by nearly 18 million across Sky and the BBC – 14 percent up on 2019, the previous Ashes summer.

England’s elan made it all the more curious that some were waiting for Bazball to fail. Among Australians, whose team had never previously given up a 2-0 lead in 146 years of Test cricket, this was perhaps understandable. But the speed with which English critics pounced on Stokes’s declaration on the first evening at Edgbaston (a gesture in keeping with the approach that had brought 11 wins from 13 Tests), or their hook-happy collapse at Lord’s (they still reached stumps decently placed at 278-4 in reply to 416), reflected the conservatism that lurks close to the surface in this country.

Ignoring the fact that England’s overnight improvement had intrinsic risk, these critics cried out for caution, apparently seeing in Bazball another piece of dumbing down, iconoclasm for the sake of it, even an act of cowardice, when application was the braver option. But Stokes and Brendon McCullum understood their players rather better. In the next three Tests, England scored faster than they had during the two defeats: 4.79 an over at Headingley, 5.49 at Old Trafford, 4.96 at The Oval. Previous England teams would have waved the white flag. This lot hoisted the skull and crossbones, and thank goodness for that.

You had to admire the chutzpah, though some sensed hubris. Worse, from a country with a history of lecturing others, they sensed condescension, despite Stokes’s insistence he was not trying to proselytise. But strip away the cultural baggage, and a simple truth remained: his team took part in two of the most captivating Test series of the year. Before the Ashes came a 1-1 draw in New Zealand, where England lost the second Test by one run after enforcing the follow-on. Even their defeats added to the gaiety of the nation. And the message from around the world is loud and clear: Test cricket will survive only if it keeps us interested.

It was to Australia’s credit that they emerged, somehow, still holding the urn. Victory at Edgbaston rewarded their tenacity; at Lord’s, skilful first-innings batting in tough conditions earned them a buffer that proved beyond Stokes’s fourth-innings 155. The loss during the second Test of Nathan Lyon, their champion off-spinner, was a turning point, even as they went two-up. Yet England were without Jack Leach and Jofra Archer. And, vindicated by their faith in Crawley, then boosted by the return of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, they played almost all the memorable cricket. Last year, we suggested the 2023 Ashes “could be a cracker”. If Stokes stays fit, dare we hope for a repeat in Australia two winters from now?

Less means more

Of the 34 Tests completed within 2023, only four reached a fifth day without intervention by rain. Nine more had no need of a fourth. Since one of the concerns of the less well-off nations – everyone bar India, England and Australia – is the cost of staging a Test, might it be time to take the pragmatic view, and limit games in those countries to four days? They could be played between Friday and Monday, all but guaranteeing a full weekend of cricket for spectators, and might even encourage bolder strokeplay. Rather than setting aside ten days for two games, home boards might be persuaded to stretch to 12 for three – putting an end to the miserable phenomenon of the two-match series. A fifth day could be reserved in case an entire day is lost to rain. Test cricket has always had to adapt, and there’s no shame in that.

Drama king

Two days into the Headingley Test against Pakistan in June 2018, Stuart Broad found a quiet corner of the pavilion, and turned his thoughts to his weekly newspaper column. “Right,” he said. “How are we going to do this?” England had lost six of their previous eight matches, eliciting from his former captain Michael Vaughan a dramatic remedy: drop Broad or Anderson. Angry but composed, Broad was keen to nail his response. He laid out a cogent argument to his ghostwriter, and next day – nailing the fuller length the experts had been demanding – to the world, with match figures of 6-66 in an innings win. And that was Broad, thoughtful off the pitch and on it, able to back word with deed.

The best players don’t simply rack up the numbers (though his final tally of 604 Test wickets made you tired just thinking of it). They leave an impression. Even more than Anderson, Broad was England’s maker of memories, the curator of the family album. With his eye for drama, this began and ended with the Ashes and The Oval – the series-winning spell in 2009, the series-levelling burst 14 years later. It took in much else besides: two Test hat-tricks; an Ashes-clinching haul of 11 at Chester-le-Street in 2013; 8-15 at Trent Bridge in 2015; 6-17 that winter at Johannesburg. A rule of thumb emerged: if Broad’s knees were pumping, so was England’s blood.

Above all, he relished the fray, lapped up the furore. At Trent Bridge in 2013, he refused to walk; at Lord’s ten years later, after the stumping of Jonny Bairstow, he wouldn’t shut up. Both annoyed Australia, which was how Broad liked it. If Anderson has always been less knowable, Broad embraced notoriety. And he was causing a scene until the end, twice switching the bails at The Oval (twice a wicket fell immediately), hitting the last ball he faced for six, then taking a wicket with the last ball he bowled. In between, he managed to be not out overnight, which meant a guard of honour from Australia next morning. You couldn’t make it up. With Broad, you never had to.

England lose on penalties – again

Even after retirement, Broad was getting stuck in. Of the 28 World Test Championship points England thought they had earned from the Ashes, 19 were deducted for bowling their overs too slowly. “The system’s wrong,” he said, with trademark certitude. Slow over-rates, and their accompanying cynicism, have long been a blight on the game. But the WTC should celebrate its best series, not undermine them. Stung by criticism of their failure to counter on-field lethargy, the ICC had gone too far, “diminishing the relevance” (SCJ Broad) of their flagship Test competition.

The self-sabotage came with a twist. Before the fourth Test in Manchester, it transpired that Usman Khawaja – in his role as a board member of the Australian Cricketers’ Association – had successfully lobbied the ICC. Fines were reduced to 5 percent of each player’s match fee per unbowled over (they had previously been 20 percent), up to a maximum of 50 percent (previously 100 percent); the slate would be wiped
clean for innings of fewer than 80 overs (previously 60); and the new rules would be backdated, like some tax wheeze, to the start of the Ashes.

This mattered, because only one of England’s six innings in the first three Tests had extended beyond 80, compared with four of Australia’s. That’s right: England, having outscored their opponents by more than a run an over, were being penalised for losing their wickets more quickly. Australia ended up being docked only ten points to England’s 19. And their overall rates for the series? England managed 13.23 an hour, Australia 12.50. But spectators were the biggest losers: the statistician Benedict Bermange calculated that, across the five Ashes Tests, a total of 116 overs, roughly four sessions, vanished into the ether.

Six years ago, these pages suggested a simple solution: delay lunch or tea, or both, until – with allowance for deductions – the overs are bowled. But if there’s anything in cricket less movable than tradition, it’s the feasts. And so, with the umpires strangely reluctant to speed things up, Tests face in-game penalties of the kind introduced to the white-ball formats. This could mean a player being sent from the field, as Sunil Narine was during a Caribbean Premier League match last year because Trinbago Knight Riders had fallen behind the rate. There was predictable uproar, but the players – if they wish – have the power to do something about it.

Mothers of invention

England’s 2019 World Cup win is so enmeshed in folklore that it’s easy to forget an earlier Lord’s miracle. In 2017, India’s women were 191-3, needing another 38 at less than a run a ball to become world champions, when Anya Shrubsole thundered in from the Pavilion End to take 5-11. In front of a full house, England won by nine runs, inspiring goodness knows how many girls to take up the game. Shrubsole – Wisden’s first female cover star – called it a day last summer, along with her old consoeur Katherine Sciver-Brunt (who went wicketless that afternoon at Lord’s but hit a crucial 34 from No.7). In these pages, their former team-mate Ebony Rainford-Brent calls them chalk and cheese, though they did share one quality. Starting life in an era when female bowlers were either line-and-length medium-pacers or gentle off-spinners, they employed guile and grit: leg-cutters, slower balls, bouncers. England’s new generation of quicks watched and learned. Much was made of the game-changing Women’s Premier League in India. But Shrubsole and Sciver-Brunt revolutionised the sport in this country at a fraction of the cost.

Backward defence

England’s Test cricket in 2023 was often a case of showing, not telling – of enacting a philosophy without apology or explanation – but their performance at the 50-over World Cup was the other way round. From one Indian venue to the next, captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott reiterated the need to play with the freedom that had made England double world champions. And the reiteration was deemed necessary because the message wasn’t getting through. By the end, as they limped into the qualification places for the 2025 Champions Trophy, Buttler and Mott were almost pleading.

Under Eoin Morgan, the message had become so ingrained it didn’t need saying. And, like Stokes and McCullum, he never wavered, knowing his approach worked only if stripped of doubt. When Mott admitted before the World Cup game against South Africa that his team were low on confidence, he allowed light into the cracks. A couple of days later, England lost by 229 runs.

Their feeble defence of the title they won so breathlessly at Lord’s in 2019 had more than one explanation. They had been focusing on Tests and T20, imagining that the one-day team would be all right on the night; their World Cup squad was first finalised, then described as provisional, causing disquiet in the ranks; Stokes, who had just made a national-record 182 against New Zealand at The Oval, injured his hip, and took three games to play himself in; Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan did not gel as an opening pair; Buttler made bad decisions at the toss; Chris Woakes wasted the new ball; England had grown older, failed to renew, watched others fly past.

But the inability of captain and coach to improve fortunes raised questions about how they might feed off each other. They needn’t offer different skills: after all, Stokes and McCullum can practically complete each other’s sentences. Yet England’s World Cup was characterised by a well-meaning but crippling introspection, as if the previous eight years had never happened. Buttler and Mott must mount a better defence of this year’s T20 World Cup if they are to keep their jobs.

It’s really quite simple

At the Feroz Shah Kotla in November, during Sri Lanka’s World Cup game against Bangladesh, Angelo Mathews became the first international cricketer to be timed out – not that he appreciated his place in history. For others, too, the dismissal stuck in the throat like Delhi’s smog, though some made it clear that their unease did not stem in any way from a belief in the spirit of cricket. What were they tiptoeing around?

Back in 2000, a few sentences about the Spirit of Cricket (MCC’s capital letters) were added as a preamble to the game’s Laws, at the suggestion of Ted Dexter and Colin Cowdrey. It contains little to get excited about. Amid the exhortations of the latest version (“show self-discipline, even when things go against you”) is a plea for respect, especially to the umpires. And that, more or less, is it: a simple idea, and – one might think – a reasonable one. Yet the spirit/Spirit has become all things to all people: on the one hand, a method of enforcing some code of honour, unwritten because so self-evident; on the other, a symptom of neo-colonialism, an implication that the village green outranks the maidan. In fact, the preamble is basically a secular rendition of the Gospels’ Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

That, of course, is part of its problem: notions of respect differ from county to county, let alone country to country. But, boy, does it invite social commentary. And in 2023 those most outraged by the application of the Laws – after the stumping of Jonny Bairstow by Alex Carey at Lord’s – belonged to the club who wrote them. Empurpled MCC members in the Long Room should have spared themselves the aggro: Bairstow had been dozy, Carey alert. “Play hard and play fair,” says the preamble. Carey did both.

Mathews, on the other hand, merely failed to ask the umpires if he could change his helmet because of a faulty chinstrap. Given the importance of headgear, Bangladesh should have allowed him a replacement, surely the respectful response.

One solution discussed by MCC has been to emphasise that nothing within cricket’s Laws can contravene its spirit (which would put the spirit out of a job). But what happens if, say, the batter accidentally collides with the bowler or a fielder, and is run out? The dismissal would be perfectly legal, but might give even the most literal adherents to the Laws pause for thought. A further pause came in February 2024, when England batter Hamza Shaikh picked up a stationary ball during an Under-19 World Cup game against Zimbabwe in Potchefstroom, and innocently – or perhaps naively – tossed it to wicketkeeper Ryan Kamwemba, who appealed for obstructing the field (handled the ball no longer exists). The umpires gave him out, and Zimbabwe celebrated as if he had edged an outswinger to slip.

The preamble’s boy-scout wisdom may feel incongruous in a streetwise world. But MCC could do worse than emphasise its simplicity. If others want to imbue it with their own agenda, there’s not a lot anyone can do.

Wrong Yorkshire, wrong England?

In late May, the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission ruled that six former players were guilty of using racist language during their time at Yorkshire. (The charge against a seventh, Michael Vaughan – the only defendant to give evidence – was “not proved”.) A month later, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket published a report whose appearance had been delayed by sheer weight of evidence. The conclusions of both the CDC and the ICEC confirmed a broadly acknowledged truth: English cricket has as much work to do as the rest of society, and sometimes more.

The ICEC report, described by ECB chief executive Richard Gould as “a massive moment for the sport”, was trashed by the usual suspects, who discerned a Marxist plot. But it was a sober, and sobering, piece of work: its 317 pages, based on interviews with over 4,000 people, deserved respect, not ridicule. While half the interviewees said they had experienced some form of discrimination in cricket, 79 percent categorised themselves as “white British”, which told another story – of sexism and elitism, not just racism. Had woke lunatics taken over the asylum? Or was this a tragedy for those whose love of cricket had gone unrequited? The evidence was there, in – yes – black and white.

But the report did not take a wrecking-ball to cricket. It offered a constructive vision of how to make it more accessible to more youngsters from more backgrounds, and who could object to that? The real question is whether English cricket is willing to change. It was easy to see why many were sceptical when the sanctions imposed on Yorkshire by the ECB included a four-point penalty in the T20 Blast, from which they had already been eliminated. And the scepticism grew when Colin Graves was re-elected as chair following an extraordinary general meeting in February, winning 88 percent of the votes cast by members. Graves, who had first done the job between 2012 and 2015, when Azeem Rafiq was still at Headingley, had breezily declared “there could have been a lot of banter in there” – a turn of phrase that suggested he hadn’t been reading the room. The ECB made clear their displeasure; Graves apologised. Yorkshire insisted (and others disagreed) that he was the only candidate able to save them from financial ruin, after £3.5m was spent on legal fees, settlements and a whistle-blowing hotline – all a result of the club’s mishandling of the racism scandal.

It was hard to disagree with those who deplored the optics of Graves’s return. It was equally hard to deny his commitment to Yorkshire. Not for the first time, the English game faced accusations of expedience, even while few offered a viable alternative.


As the IndiGo Airlines flight from Lucknow on October 30 pulled into its bay at Ahmedabad airport, there was a bit of activity in the front row. Ushered alone to the exit, down to the tarmac and on to a bus that might normally hold 50 passengers, Jay Shah – honorary secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India – was a man on a mission. Nothing but a World Cup victory would do. Fortunately, he had a foot in each of the two institutions that run cricket – the BCCI and the Bharatiya Janata Party, where his father, Amit, is prime minister Narendra Modi’s closest ally.

And Shah jnr had been dealt a useful hand. The BCCI’s shambolic scheduling meant overseas fans were scarce, exaggerating India’s home advantage. Pitches were changed at the last minute, without the consent of the ICC, nominally in charge but unwilling to intervene. Even the fixture list, once finally confirmed, was kind to India: at the last three World Cups, T20 and 50-over, their final group game has been against Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands – convenient, in case they needed a late boost to their net run-rate. The trend will continue this year in the USA, where their last group game is against Canada.

Providing support, both tacit and explicit, were TV commentators either too fearful to speak openly, or despairingly in tune with the insidious nationalism. (The death last year of Bishan Bedi, the great left-arm spinner, robbed Indian cricket of one of the last remaining voices willing to speak truth to power.) After India thrashed New Zealand in the semi-final on a different Mumbai wicket from the one pre-agreed with Andy Atkinson, the ICC’s independent pitch consultant, Sunil Gavaskar labelled those who had chased the story as “morons”. As if to confirm the faintly Orwellian nature of it all, the ICC appeared more concerned with finding out how Atkinson’s gripe had gone public than with the home team’s shenanigans.

It continued – then backfired. The best side in the tournament, India handed Australia a lifeline by producing an underprepared surface for the final. They then over-reacted to the loss of three wickets inside 11 overs, hitting only four fours in the remaining 39. A robust Australia needed no second invitation, leading to an unwelcome trophy ceremony in which Modi handed the World Cup to a captain wearing yellow, not blue.

By then, we had already endured another absurdity. During a tournament that had been intended as a show of India’s and Modi’s power ahead of this year’s general election, the ICC suspended Sri Lanka because of government interference. No one could say whether this irony was lost on dignitaries as they watched the final at a stadium named after the prime minister. And when the BCCI might have used their political clout to help someone other than themselves, they were unable to arrange a visa in time to allow Shoaib Bashir, the young Somerset off-spinner, to join his new England Test team-mates on their flight into India in January from a training camp in Abu Dhabi. Bashir, a Muslim with Pakistani heritage, was forced to sit out the first Test.

There were shades of the Robin Jackman affair, more than 40 years earlier, but with one crucial difference: when Guyana’s government revoked Jackman’s visa ahead of the Second Test at Georgetown because of his regular winters in apartheid South Africa, his England colleagues stood by him, pulling out of the game and flying on to Barbados. In Hyderabad, Ben Stokes said he considered something similar, only for pragmatism to trump principle. The answer to too many questions in cricket is now: because we mustn’t upset India. And don’t the BCCI know it.

Remembering Tangiwai

On Christmas Eve 1953, as all New Zealanders know, a railway bridge in Tangiwai collapsed under the weight of an overnight express train taking passengers from Wellington to Auckland. Among the 151 who died was Nerissa Love, fiancée of Bob Blair, who at roughly the time the train plunged into the Whangaehu River was opening the bowling against South Africa in the Second Test at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park. He received the news on Boxing Day, then reduced everyone to tears by walking out to bat at No. 11, even whacking a six off South Africa’s off-spinner Hugh Tayfield. At the start of 2024, Blair – by now resident in Warrington, Cheshire – was the only survivor of the 22 who played in Johannesburg. And in early February it was announced that all Test series between the two countries, starting with the matches at Mount Maunganui and Hamilton, would contest the Tangiwai Shield. Administrators don’t get everything right when it comes to naming trophies,
but New Zealand Cricket played a blinder.

Chips off the old block

Amid racism scandals at Yorkshire and Essex, monetary meltdown at Middlesex, and yet more winter flooding at Worcester, county cricket was grateful for the cheer provided by Durham. A Division Two side ever since the ECB’s draconian response to their financial plight in 2016, they finally regained promotion, with the kind of cricket that showed they had been paying attention during a pre-season Zoom chat involving Brendon McCullum, Ben Stokes and domestic coaches. No county responded more vibrantly to the call for brighter cricket than Stokes’s own, racing along at 4.39 an over, hoovering up batting points. The average rate in both tiers of the Championship was 3.56, the quickest for years, which suggests Bazball has trickled down. This summer, Durham should be worth a watch.

Young at heart

Did the Oxford dons realise they had a Test cricketer in their midst when Saibh-Anna Young completed her MSc in taxation at Christ Church College in October? The significance had certainly threatened to pass Wisden by, until she emailed to ask whether – at Lord’s in May, aged 55 – she was the oldest woman to play in the Varsity Match. Better than that, it turned out, she was the oldest of either gender. She had also played in Ireland’s only women’s Test, against Pakistan in her home city of Dublin in 2000, when her seamers brought her first-innings figures of 10-9-1-0. And her final deed as an international cricketer was to take a hat-trick against England (middle victim: Ebony Rainford-Brent) as Ireland won a European Championship match at Reading a year later. In her email, Saibh-Anna gently reminded us of that mention in the Almanack. She can now add a couple more.

Smash hit

A touching letter appeared in the September issue of The Cricketer: “With Bazball, how do we stop grandchildren trying to hit every ball into next door? Luckily my neighbours love cricket.” With apologies to gardeners, here’s hoping for a few damaged greenhouses in the summers to come.

Lawrence Booth is the editor of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

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