Cricket: Hooper in a hurry to show genius

Kent 186 and 517 Lancashire 445 and 125-2 Match drawn

THE skills of some of the world's greatest batsmen require the qualification "on their day" more than most, and Carl Hooper is undoubtedly among them. There is something of David Gower in the way that his languid elegance, which on those days can appear impossible to bowl to, seemingly slips into casualness on others. Until two days ago, his return to Kent after absence on international duty in 1997 consisted of Championship scores of 1, 4 and 4, and while his one-day record included a couple of 60s, it was almost marked by a humbling duck against British Universities. Paul Strang's successful season at Canterbury last year was beginning to take on a nostalgic glow.

In hauling Kent back into this game by making the second double century of his career, Hooper magnificently revealed his other side, the one that has kept his batting average in the mid-40s despite his frustrating ability to lose the plot occasionally. This was "touch" play of the highest class, silky but murderous, never becalmed for long. It ensured that at least in one corner of England there was Championship cricket on a sunny Saturday afternoon, to reward the substantial number who chose to support the summer game rather than the climax of the football season. Given the contempt shown towards such supporters by the cricket authorities, whose decision yet again to make Saturday the fourth day of the Championship ensured locked gates and empty grounds in most counties, one wonders for how much longer such a faithful following can be taken for granted.

There is no weak spot in Hooper's armoury when in this mood - huge sixes, biffing cuts and hooks were mixed with the subtle dabs that always kept the scoreboard alive. When he passed 200 with 20 minutes to go until lunch, the comparison with Michael Atherton's earlier century was a revealing one.

Both innings were recuperative efforts by world-class batsmen short of form. But whereas Atherton's confidence-restoring hundred had been reached in 311 balls, Hooper's first came in 99, the West Indian passed 200 in 207 balls, precisely two-thirds of the ration needed for Atherton to get half as far. In other words, here were two solutions to the same problem - one carefully built run by run, the other constructed by a genius in a hurry. And between them they helped to set up the game's final act. Having passed his personal milestone, collecting the last 10 runs with comparative caution, Hooper holed out at long-off, having hit 23 fours and half a dozen sixes.

The Kent skipper, Steve Marsh, could hardly have had a declaration possibility in mind when his team found themselves 259 adrift on the first innings, they now set about moving towards the required equation. Although the Kent lower order crumbled either side of lunch - not to Wasim Akram, who is nursing a groin strain - Marsh probably just about got there. He reached a brisk 50 immediately before the end of the Kent innings, and the game was now nicely poised, with Lancashire needing 259 - coincidentally the first innings margin - from a minimum of 50 overs.

They soon abandoned interest in the chase, however, when they lost two early wickets. Atherton was a reluctant lbw victim, shouldering arms to Dean Headley, and then Hooper leaped back into the game, diving at second slip to catch Nathan Wood. Ironically, on such a good batting wicket, Kent might have stood a better chance had Lancashire prospered early on - then a few quick wickets could have introduced panic. As it was, an early finish was agreed upon, but we will savour memories of Hooper at his finest for a long time to come.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there