Cricket: Glory of diverse batting talents

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The Independent Online
THE West Indian innings was an extraordinary mixture of genius, classical grace, robust opportunism and sheer bloody- mindedness. Between them Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert supplied all these ingredients.

With Lara, wrists and fast footwork combine with an instinctive awareness of length and a glorious repertoire of strokes to take the breath away as he brings off the most outrageous extravagances. There is, in his batting something of the fun and dash which belonged to Denis Compton in the years after the war. Lara's genius may never turn on another show like his 375 here in Antigua four years ago. Even so, this innings was as compelling as it was irresistible.

Then came the classical grace of Hooper, who, like all truly fine batsmen, makes the business of orthodox strokeplay look supremely easy. No contemporary batsman plays a better off-drive and the quality of Hooper's would stand with any in the history of the game.

He will pull the fastest of bowlers after positioning himself with neat, exact, and never hurried footwork. He is incapable of an ungraceful movement and there is a stately precision about every stroke he plays. It is his concentration which is apt to falter and is the reason he will almost c certainly go down as an under-achiever.

The other two batsmen who prospered in this innings, Wallace and Lambert, are making a name for themselves with the frenetic starts they have now given the West Indies in three successive innings.

Wallace is by nature the more belligerent, hitting the ball as hard as anyone. He is ready to plunder the bowling from the very first ball and he is no crude slogger either. His 36-year-old left-handed partner looks at the crease a little like a crab in his dreadfully open-chested stance. But, early on, when the ball is new, he likes to give it a real crack. Then, as the innings goes on, he withdraws more and more into his shell. Altogether, this West Indian innings was one of interesting contrast.

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