Cricket: Time out required for master batsman

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The Independent Online
WHEN rain swept across Trent Bridge shortly after three o'clock yesterday afternoon, umbrella forests sprouted in every corner and the New Zealanders edged towards the sanctuary of the pavilion.

But Graham Gooch remained rooted to the crease; as 'boot-filling' goes, yesterday was in the waders' class and it was going to take more than a squall to shift him.

When umpires Dickie Bird and Steve Bucknor eventually signalled a halt, Gooch, then on 68, reluctantly trudged towards the pavilion only to rush back to his crease and begin putting the stumps back in as the rain eased.

In the event they were back off two runs later but it was a good indication of the way Gooch feels about New Zealand's bowling. So, too, was Graeme Hick's reaction upon Gooch reaching his century; having been sitting unfettered for a while, Hick padded up again. It all smacked of the University matches when, having knocked off a century, county batsmen are expected to do the decent thing and get themselves out. Gooch's subsequent batting, at least until he started thinking of other targets, suggested that was the case.

Such contempt for international bowlers is a grim reflection of the Kiwi attack. It also reinforces the argument against Gooch's return. He batted beautifully yesterday and clearly remains the best batsman in the country - but we know that already. Meanwhile, Graham Thorpe's burgeoning Test career has been suspended and John Crawley, the most talented young batsman in the country, is left to continue plundering county attacks.

Gooch obviously improves England's chances of victory and Ray Illingworth's priority, naturally enough given the last 18 months, is to get England winning again. But after two days it is already apparent that only poor weather should prevent England winning all three Tests, whoever they pick.

Gooch, who admitted he was unusually nervous before his innings, said: 'At my age when you don't perform it is difficult to stay in the side. I can hardly describe myself as up-and-coming.'

Which is why Gooch should be thanked, praised, then told to take a breather until the South Africans arrive. He is no longer needed in this series. His place is required to develop a successor.