Cautionary tale of Knight's timid charge

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The Independent Online
Nick Knight's 57 should have done wonders for his confidence as an England opening batsman, while his occupation of the crease for 254 minutes spoke volumes about his adhesiveness and temperament. One only hopes that he does not regard this as a benchmark for the future.

Long, slow innings, while in one sense admirable, can so often turn out to be counter-productive. After winning the toss on the sort of pitch which led Neville Cardus to write that whenever he thought of Trent Bridge the score was always around 350 for 2 and the sun was shining out of a cloudless sky, a big score was essential for England.

But in setting out to compile, say, 500, the batsmen must try and dominate because passive resistance, although it may frustrate the bowlers, does not truly wrest the initiative from them. England were 142 for no wicket at tea on Thursday, and the three West Indian fast bowlers were far from spent.

When Knight was out soon after the resumption, their state of mind and body was such that in no time at all the initiative was firmly back in their own hands. For most of the last session, England's batsmen were fighting for their lives.

If the score at tea had been around 200 for no wicket, the West Indians would have found it much harder to get themselves back into the match as they did. They would have been more footsore and depressed.

This is not to blame Knight, for the circumstances were not easy. This is only his second Test match, he was obviously not in touch and still he managed to make one end safe so that his captain could happily play his strokes at the other.

Knight's one error was his inability or unwillingness to play for the singles which would have given his partner more of the strike. As it was, in the two hours before lunch, Knight faced 101 for 17 runs while Atherton's 45 came off 80 balls.

Knight's innings begs two questions, the first of which is whether this is going to be the norm for him at this level and is he therefore up to the job he has been asked to do? And have the selectors been swayed too much by his left-handedness? Provided both are good enough, a right/left- hand opening partnership is ideal.

One of the earliest of Test cricket's stonewallers, William Scotton, was also a left-hander. In 1884, going in first against Australia, he batted almost six hours for 90 and took part in a ninth-wicket stand of 151, still a record, with Walter Read, who made 117 and had come out in a huff that his captain, Lord Harris, had put him in at No 10.

Two years later and again at The Oval, Scotton and W G Grace put on 170 for England's first wicket. Scotton who was first out, had made 34 in 225 minutes.

Scotton had started life as a dasher just as Brian Bolus had done when he played a couple of Test Matches against the West Indies in 1963. He on-drove his first ball in Test cricket for four. In India the following winter, he became a memorable blocker and never played for England again after that tour. Knight beware!