CRICKET: ECHO OF THE PAST: David Gower and Graham Thorpe

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The Independent Online
As the top left-handed batsmen of their generation in English cricket, they presumably have much in common?

Well, they both bat left-handed. And both made their highest Test scores against Australia at Edgbaston. However, to borrow another organ's way of expressing these things... er, that's it.

So in what way are they different?

Attitude, character, style, temperament, technique, outlook - probably anything you can think of, really. Apart from being left-handed and establishing themselves as a fixture in England's middle-order.

Elaborate, please.

OK, let's start at the beginning. When Gower abandoned his law studies to join Leicestershire in 1975, it was because he dreamed of being Graeme Pollock or Gary Sobers; when Thorpe left grammar school in Farnham to become a humble junior at The Oval, it was in the steady, solid professionalism of the likes of Ray Alikhan and Keith Medlycott that he found inspiration. Whereas with Gower, batting was a pursuit that demanded verve and panache, Thorpe admired those players who simply "got on with the job" and has approached his career with those words in mind. He might have been an industrious midfielder with a lower division football club had cricket not signed him up first; Gower, had his talents been unthinkably overlooked, would undoubtedly have been a fighter pilot.

Off the field?

Two more contrasting types there could not be. Gower was always a social animal - in any bar in any country, in any hospitality tent on any cricket ground - and no bottle of Bollinger would remain undisturbed long in his company. Thorpe, on the other hand, prefers beer to champagne and is happier sharing it quietly with a few close mates.

On it?

Thorpe made a century on his Test debut against Australia in 1993 but in adding only one more in 33 Tests subsequently created the suspicion of a mental barrier. Gower announced himself famously by pulling his first ball in Test cricket for four on the way to a characteristically flawed but charming 58 against Pakistan but posted hundreds in his fourth and eighth appearances and an unbeaten 200 on his 13th. However, though a Thorpe knock may never touch the glorious heights of a Gower innings, in 49 appearances so far he has proved himself a redoubtable performer worthy of admiration and respect, if not eulogies.

Career statistics

David Gower

Tests: (117) debut 1978 (aged 21)

Batting: 8231 runs (avg 44.25)

Highest score: 215 v Australia (Edgbaston) 1985.

First class: debut for Leicestershire 1975 (aged 18)

Batting: 26,339 runs (ave 40.09)

Highest score: 228 v Glamorgan (Leicester) 1989; Centuries: 53

Career statistics

Graham Thorpe

Tests: (49) debut 1993 (aged 23)

Batting: 3,303 runs (ave 42.34)

Highest score: 138 v Australia (Edgbaston) 1997.

First class: debut for Surrey 1988 (aged 19)

Batting: 14,257 runs (ave 45.26)

Highest score: 222 v Glamorgan (The Oval) 1997; Centuries: 31