Cricket / Second Test: Fleming the free spirit: Henry Blofeld observes similarities with David Gower in New Zealand's uninhibited left-hander

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The Independent Online
THOSE who loved to watch David Gower bat and were prepared to journey from continent to continent to do so will have found that Stephen Fleming's batting touches a not dissimilar chord.

He, too, is a free spirit of a batsman who regards the bat in his hand as an object with which to hit the ball as often and as hard as he can and a man whose main reason for playing cricket is obviously because of the pleasure it gives him.

It goes without saying that Fleming, who has a lovely touch, will play memorable and match-winning innings just as he will play some which will be the despair of even his greatest supporters.

In one nook at Lord's I think I heard Gower say on television that Fleming had sought his advice earlier in the tour and that Gower had told him to keep on playing his strokes. It was a piece of advice which spoke volumes for Gower's own attitude and Fleming showed on the fourth day at Lord's that wild horses will not stop him following it, even though it was not perhaps one of his best innings.

He will, in time, learn not to cut the ball when it is so close to his off stump but even so, when he plays this stroke he really hits at the ball and it flies away too fast for the slips to move in time. A half-volley to him is always a half-volley and coming in yesterday at 29 for 3 he was not in the least

inhibited. His whole attitude and approach will have done wonders for New Zealand's morale at a difficult moment. His instinct is as precious as his lovely strokeplay.

On occasions like this, he will get himself out just as Gower did but one has to accept these marvellous loose-limbed poetic left-handers, warts and all. One prays that no curmudgeonly adviser will try and curb the wonderful zest which Fleming brings to the game. I do not know whether he has yet learned to fly a Tiger Moth but if he has it must never be held against him.