Gooch in vintage form

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The Independent Online
West Indies 366 & 106-0 Essex 300-4 dec

Graham Gooch may look years younger after his hair implant - but the West Indies can confirm that he is still the same old batsman.

They might not have recognised him at Chelmsford without a bat in his hands. However, the undefeated 109 he scored against them for Essex yesterday was unmistakably vintage Gooch, punctuated by 13 boundaries and packed with numerous powerful drives.

It was the 119th first-class century of his career, the seventh taken off the West Indies for either club or country, his sixth against all opposition this season - and the second since unveiling a new head of hair.

If only someone could put some young life back into Gooch's 42-year-old legs, then England would not have to worry about casting around for a long-term opener to keep Mike Atherton company.

Gooch, playing what looks certain to be his last match against the West Indies, did not give the hint of a chance until reaching 94.

Then came two uncomfortable moments during an over from the spinner, Carl Hooper, when the wicketkeeper Courtney Browne missed a simple stumping and a difficult catch.

Having reached 109 by tea, Gooch retired with what was said to be a migraine. "My hair was hurting," he claimed.

The former Essex captain's partnership of 134 with Nasser Hussain (56) was not much fun for the West Indies, but the tourists were pleased to see Curtly Ambrose back in action. After limbering up on Saturday with 27 with the bat, he bowled 11 overs unscathed yesterday with the wicket of Jonathan Lewis to show for his efforts.

Ambrose missed the fifth Test because of back and shoulder injuries - and he looks ready and raring to have another crack at England's batsmen on Thursday.

With Essex declaring 66 behind at 300 for 4, there was time for Phil Simmons to follow Saturday's century with a whirlwind unbeaten 76 (off 60 balls with 13 fours and a six) as the West Indies extended their advantage to 172.

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