Cricket: Thorpe's concrete boots are left in the dressing room

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The Independent Online
Graham Thorpe was lucky that his captain did not take the advice that was swirling round Harare and put John Crawley, who had run out of partners in his last two innings for England, in at No 5 and drop Thorpe down to No 6.

Thorpe's form since arriving in Zimbabwe has been dreadful. Almost invariably when good players lose form it is their footwork which goes. Thorpe's feet have been stuck in concrete.

He came in yesterday at 89 for 3 after the leg-spinner Paul Strang had picked up a couple of wickets. England were 30 runs ahead and defeat was looking a distinct possibility. Thorpe's heart must have been beating a crescendo as he took guard, and for a while it was as if every ball might have been his last.

But he is an experienced player and, gradually, he began to settle down and organise himself in defence. His natural instinct is to play his strokes but on this dead pitch that would not have been advisable, even if he had been in his best form.

He was lucky to have as his partner his friend and county colleague Alec Stewart, who frequently came down the pitch to talk to him and offer advice. After a little bit of luck early on, when he played and missed or the ball bounced before reaching the fielders, Thorpe clawed his way back. He began to locate the middle of his bat and, almost imperceptibly at first, his footwork became more mobile. Sensibly he did not attempt any big strokes unless to a really bad ball. It was an innings which spoke volumes for his determination and for his patience.

He got into the thirties when a drive went away for four, and for a short while it was followed by a flash or two of over-confidence. A scything cut made no contact and likewise a flailing drive at a wide one. Stewart came down the pitch and cautioned him.

Both times Thorpe had lifted his head as he played the stroke and this has been another reason for his poor showing on Zimbabwe's slow pitches. After these two air shots, his head went down again and he got on with the job of steering England towards the draw, something they have almost made certain.

Thorpe's 50 has taken him more than three and a half hours and it was never the greatest of innings to watch, but it will have done him a power of good.

He will now be starting to believe in himself again, which is a huge step forward, and if he can double his score on the last day it will send him on to New Zealand in an altogether better frame of mind.

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