Alex Brown is a former deputy editor of ESPNcricinfo
Mark Ramprakash has no shortage of supporters calling for his reinstatement to the England team for the final Ashes Test, but none more vociferous than Karen Hardy. Together, Ramprakash and Hardy sashayed their way to glory on the BBC's top-rating Strictly Come Dancing programme in 2006, and Hardy believes her one-time dance partner can lead England to similar heights at The Oval.
“Mark, what an opportunity this is, I can’t think of a more worthy person to come to England’s rescue at this late stage!" Hardy wrote in an email to Cricinfo. "It may have been seven years but you have proven yourself time after time with your amazing performance records with Surrey. Of course I know it has to be down to some of the tricky footwork I gave you in your dancing. (Maybe you can take some with you to share with the team!) You’ve been a great support to Conrad and I with setting up Karen Hardy Studios and now I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you raising a trophy once again!”
Like Ramprakash, Hardy is 39 and at the centre of a media storm relating to age. The Mirror recently reported she would be replaced on this season's Strictly Come Dancing with 25-year-old Lithuanian Katya Virshilas, however the BBC denied an "ageist" agenda and pledged to find her a new role on the programme. Ramprakash and Hardy received a perfect 40-out-of-40 from the judges for their tango and salsa routines during the 2006 Strictly Come Dancing final, and earned the lion's share of the 12 million viewer votes taken by the BBC. Darren Gough won the title the previous year.