Cricket / Fourth test: Leading batsmen fail to capitalise

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The Independent Online
WHILE the lack of penetration in England's bowling appears to be an insurmountable problem, the continued inability of the batsmen to produce the really big innings which makes the difference at this level is no less worrying.

In the first innings at Headingley Graham Gooch and Mike Atherton both passed 50 but neither went further. In the instance of Gooch this is an observation rather than a criticism for he of all people has shown repeatedly that even at the age of 40 he can go on and on even though he was accident-prone in this match.

In the second innings, four of the first five in the order, Mark Lathwell, Atherton, Robin Smith and Gooch all did the hard work and laid a solid base to their innings before getting out. They all should have been looking for the big hundred which would have given England a real chance of a draw.

If it seems unfair to criticise Lathwell in his second Test one must say that once a batsman pulls on an England sweater only Test match criteria apply. Three times in four innings he has made a start and then got himself out. Atherton has also acquired the habit of giving his wicket away when he has reached the stage where it is his clear duty to go on and make a hundred and more. He did it twice at Lord's and twice now at Headingley.

Unlike Lathwell, Atherton is not a player who takes risks with his strokeplay and his batting is based on scrupulous judgement, which makes it all the more surprising and disappointing when, after batting a long time, it is his judgement that lets him down.

He was bowled playing no stroke in the first innings and in the second was deceived by Tim May's arm ball. There was nothing new about that particular ball either for it had caused great problems in the Lord's Test match.

Paul Reiffel's break-back which bowled Atherton in the first innings should have been uppermost in Smith's mind too when he played no stroke in the second and was lbw after reaching 35.

Gooch's concentration and judgement then broke just before the end - excusably maybe but irritatingly none the less.