Cricket / County Championship: The glory of Gower

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The Independent Online
Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .297-6


THE David Gower for England lobby remains the not-so-silent majority around the county circuit. His actions spoke louder than words yesterday in an eloquent innings of 153, with 19 fours, to prove he is not just a stroke-player but the man for the crises often afflicting his country.

Gower made a 50th first-class hundred in 19 seasons but only his 25th in the County Championship and third in just over three summers for Hampshire.

The others include 18 Test centuries, of which nine have come against Australia. His only previous hundred at Trent Bridge was against them in 1985, thus adding topicality to his latest feat, which had more than a touch of inevitability when he faced the sixth ball of the day after Tony Middleton's dismissal.

Hampshire, 'low in experience' in the words of Mark Nicholas, their captain, absent through a cracked right index finger, were also without Malcolm Marshall through a shoulder strain. Robin Smith's Test call also heightened the importance of Gower's performance on a pitch already prompting the odd ball to misbehave, especially when the spinners operated.

Gower said afterwards: 'It's not a bad reminder to the selectors. All I can do is make sure I am first in line if a place becomes available.' He continues to bat with something resembling arrogant indolence. Yet because of his class and timing, Gower can look lackadaisical whether flicking the ball to the boundary or being out, as he was, on the back foot, attempting to turn it gently to leg.

Without Gower, the innings would probably have been consigned to a pauper's grave. Instead, the condemned breathed new life as the bottom-of-the-table occupants rose to two batting points, the probability of a third and possibility of a fourth.

When bad light stopped play with the minimum overs almost bowled but 25 minutes remaining, Adrian Aymes was approaching a half-century and Tim Robinson doubtless ruing a lost toss for the fifth consecutive Championship match. Shaun Udal and Ian Turner, the Hampshire spinners, could have a major say in the destiny of this match. Gower, too.