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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk