Thorpe's gritty lesson in determination

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The Independent Online

Batsmen on both sides would become better players if they were able to digest the lessons taught by Graham Thorpe in his 392 minutes at the crease in England's first innings. He came in with England at 40 for 3 and it was just the situation that Thorpe - who loves nothing more than a good scrap - relishes.

Batsmen on both sides would become better players if they were able to digest the lessons taught by Graham Thorpe in his 392 minutes at the crease in England's first innings. He came in with England at 40 for 3 and it was just the situation that Thorpe - who loves nothing more than a good scrap - relishes.

The West Indies won the psychological advantage on Saturday morning largely through the cheeky impudence of Carlton Baugh with the bat. Even though Pedro Collins was injured, their other fast bowlers were quick to build on that advantage and when Thorpe arrived, a defensive operation was urgently needed.

There is no more canny cricketer around than Thorpe and it was clear when he took guard that he planned to bat for a long, long time. No risks were taken. The importance of keeping the score moving was never forgotten as he pushed the ball with unerring accuracy into the gaps and ran what singles were on offer, which is not always something English batsmen do well.

Thorpe's experience enables him to persuade bowlers to bowl where he wants and to feed his more productive areas. He is every inch a pitch-wise old pro. At the start of his innings runs came fast. Brian Lara kept the pressure on Thorpe and Andrew Strauss with close fielders. This left gaps into which the ball was pushed for all-important singles.

As their partnership flourished the field became more defensive and the run-rate slowed, but Thorpe was not in the least concerned or frustrated. As can happen during a long innings, his timing seemed to desert him so he attempted no big strokes and took only safe runs.

Thorpe survived a chance to backward point on 58, making him more determined to carry on the fight. His timing had not returned by Sunday and the second half of his innings was no object of beauty. But, most importantly, and unlike other batsmen who made a start, he did not get out.

Nor did he flinch when a fiendish, 90mph-plus lifter from Fidel Edwards broke the top of his right little finger. After a five-minute hold up for treatment he even attempted to hook the next ball from Edwards. Although he must have been in considerable pain, he batted on as if nothing had happened. It took him almost an hour to score the remaining nine he needed for his hundred and in all he batted for another 107 minutes after the injury. It was devotion to duty of the highest order and a glowing example for cricketers everywhere.

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