Cricket: Third Test: Hussain a figure of authority

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The Independent Online
THERE were a couple of wonderful moments for England which told so much more than the simple fact that Nasser Hussain had split Shane Warne's cover field with fierce and decisive drives for four. They were strokes which spoke of a rare talent coupled with a certain steely disdain.

From his first ball against Warne he looked best equipped of all the England batsmen to cope with wrist spin. His judgement of length was good, his footwork was excellent and, above all, he gave the strong impression of always knowing what to do and which way the ball was turning. He never dithered.

When Warne threw one up teasingly at the start of his innings he pounced. The left foot stamped down the pitch with hostile intent and he drove the ball with a lovely wristy flourish and a triumphant follow-through between cover and extra for four. It was a most emphatic stroke which told the bowler who was in charge and later in the evening he played it again.

Hussain produced another stroke which he has made his own - the paddle sweep. He plays it to a ball pitching outside leg stump, hitting it down with an almost perpendicular bat towards fine leg. It is a much less hazardous stroke than the normal sweep, which sends the ball away square when the bat comes across the line at right angles to the ball.

Hussain first caught one's attention in 1989 and it was in the Southend week that he showed what a fine player he is against spin bowling. A brilliant piece of batting enabled Essex to beat Yorkshire on the last day of the second game of the week on a pitch which was subsequently reported and resulted in Essex being docked 25 points.

Of course, Hussain was undone by the fast bowling on that winter's tour to the West Indies. He got himself into trouble by opening the face of the bat too much when playing through the off side - something he will have to watch against the spinners too. It would be ironic if his performances against Warne and Tim May lead to another tour of the West Indies. But on this evidence Hussain is a more mature player than when he first played for