Monday 23 October 2017

Cabinet meeting put to the Test

Prime Minister David Cameron was ribbed by Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew over his own cricketing abilities
Prime Minister David Cameron was ribbed by Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew over his own cricketing abilities

Ministers gathered for Cabinet at David Cameron's country residence Chequers on Thursday were surprised to find the meeting interrupted by an official bearing an apparently urgent note.

With the nation awaiting the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child, the immediate conclusion many of them jumped to was that the happy moment had come and the Prime Minister was being informed of the arrival of the baby who will be third in line to the throne.

But it soon transpired that the news was less momentous - and less joyous too. Mr Cameron had asked for an update on the progress of the second cricket Test to be sent in for Kenneth Clarke, who was missing the match, and the note was to inform him that English wickets were tumbling in the first morning's play against Australia at Lord's.

Mr Cameron revealed the bizarre incident as he took in a day of the Ashes at Lord's on Friday - the day after the House of Commons rose for its summer break. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Sport Extra's Test Match Special, the Prime Minister said: "We had a Cabinet meeting and I asked someone to bring in the cricket score half-way through to see how it was going, and this bit of paper arrived in the Cabinet room and everyone of course thought it was the announcement about the royal baby. There was a great intake of breath. It was actually because Ken Clarke wanted to know what the score was, because he was supposed to be at Lord's."

Mr Cameron took a ribbing from Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew over his own cricketing abilities, after the two took part in a record-breaking charity event to raise money for an international cricket ground in Rwanda. Aggers accused the Prime Minister of bowling "a couple of pies" at Alby Shale, who was in the process of totting up a world record 26 unbroken hours at the crease in cricket nets at The Oval.

And Mr Cameron had to admit his technique was rusty, telling Agnew: "If you are used to playing with young children and you bowl with a tennis ball in the garden, and then suddenly it's a proper cricket ball, proper nets, proper length, it's all a bit of a shock. I haven't really bowled for a few years so I definitely need a bit of remedial work."

Mr Cameron said his batting technique had apparently also been mocked by Test Match Special regular Geoffrey Boycott, after he faced a few balls on Mumbai's Maidan park during a visit to India earlier this year. "I hear he was criticising me for not having enough elbow," said Mr Cameron. "So I've got it in for Boycott. Where is he?"

No sooner had he asked than Boycott himself appeared on the scene, seemingly unaware that he had said anything to bruise the Prime Minister's cricketing pride. Asked what he thought of Cameron's style, Boycott replied: "His batting? I haven't seen him yet. I've invited him to Headingley, but he's too busy." He told the Prime Minister he should skip Parliament for a day and come to see England and Australia play a one-day international at the Yorkshire ground later this summer. "This Question Time you do - say to them 'Not today, I'm going to Headingley with Geoffrey'," he joked, though Mr Cameron wondered whether this would be seen as a "legitimate excuse".

Mr Cameron revealed that he ducked out of a challenge to go downhill skiing or play ice hockey with Russian president Vladimir Putin - renowned for his love of rugged outdoor sports - during a recent visit to Winter Olympics venue Sochi. And he said he was planning to bring Barack Obama to a cricket match, after the US president took him to a basketball game in Ohio last year and presented him with a hoop for the Downing Street garden. "I can't actually get the ball into it very often," the Prime Minister admitted. "I've told him he has got to see a cricket match to really understand what proper sport is. Golf is his game, I think."

In best Test Match Special tradition, he had a cake for Aggers and the team - though it was not home-made. "I've just been a little bit busy," he said. "My cake-making skills are not what they should be, so I've brought one from Huffkins, a small bakery in my constituency in Witney... west Oxfordshire's finest, a brilliant small business."

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