Cricket: First Cornhill Test: Fearless bowlers enjoy field day on the boundary

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The Independent Online
THE evolutionary process which is forever changing cricket has been quickened up in the last 30 years by the arrival of the one-day game. Old and traditional methods have been adapted, and in some cases forgotten altogether, in order to try to answer the needs of limited-over cricket. Batting technique has undoubtedly suffered, but the one aspect of the game whch has been improved is fielding.

At Lord's, on the second day, there were two outstanding examples of one way in which this has happened. Just after the start, David Richardson glanced Phillip DeFreitas and the ball raced towards the pavilion rails.

Darren Gough, who was fielding at fine-leg, sprinted to his right and threw himself in desperation at the ball. He knocked it sideways and somehow kept it inside the boundary. By the time he had picked himself up and returned the ball to the wicketkeeper, the batsmen had run two, and two runs had been saved.

The second incident came soon after the start of England's innings when Michael Atherton played Fanie de Villiers firmly off his legs behind square. The ball ran fast towards the corner of the Grandstand and Allan Donald, at fine- leg, sprinted yards to his left before plunging headlong at the ball and saving two runs with a brilliant stop.

They were both glorious pieces of fielding by the two most dangerous fast bowlers in the match. Even 15 years ago this is unlikely to have happened, for fast bowlers in the middle of spells would almost certainly have given up.

Before the introduction of one- day cricket these boundary-edge heroics would not have been considered by any of the fielders. Before the war, not even wicketkeepers threw themselves around, and it was left to Godfrey Evans in the immediate post-war years to change this fashion.

While both these incidents involving Gough and Donald were spectacular and hugely appreciated by the crowd, one was left wondering if they made sense. If either side had lost the services of their main strike bowler because he was injured attempting these gymnastic feats in the attempt to save only two runs, the folly would have been starkly apparent.

A shoulder or an arm could so easily be severely damaged and then these heroics would be made to seem false in the extreme. I wonder how they are viewed by the Keith Fletchers and Mike Procters of this world, let alone the Ray Illingworths?

Once again Alec Stewart's early dismissal made one question the wisdom of continuing to bat Graham Gooch, who was just about the best opening batsman in the world for a number of years, give or take Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Sunny Gavaskar, down the order.

Lifelong openers seldom prosper when asked to bat out of position. It did not work with Geoff Boycott or Dennis Amiss, to name two, and I would not be at all surprised if Gooch finishes his Test career in a year or two walking out once again with Atherton.