Gooch retires as `one of England's greats'

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The Independent Online

Graham Gooch has been hailed as one of the finest batsmen England has ever produced, following his decision to retire from first-class cricket.

The former England captain will be 44 on Wednesday and he has chosen Essex's Championship match with Worcestershire at Chelmsford on the same day for his final appearance. It will end a playing career which began 24 years ago against Northamptonshire at Chalkwell Park, Westcliff.

Since first joining the professional circuit, he has scored nearly 45,000 runs to finish 10th in the all-time list, his 129 centuries leave him eighth equal with Sir Len Hutton and his 8,900 Test runs are more than any other Englishman.

Only last season, he finished as the highest-scoring English batsman with 1,944 runs, but a succession of mediocre scores this summer has forced his hand and he will now concentrate on his England selecting duties alongside Mike Gatting and the chairman of selectors, David Graveney.

"I wouldn't say I've lost it, but it's not happening for me at the moment," Gooch said. "I've too much respect for what I've achieved to just hang on. It's time to go. The old petrol light has been flashing for about five years and now I know the tank is empty.

"I was the leading English batsman last season and I started out in April with every intention of playing a full season, scoring 1,000 runs, doing well and seeing how it went. It's not that I've been playing badly, but scoring 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s has never been in my game plan."

Doug Insole, Gooch's mentor at Essex for most of his career and a former England selector, said: "He has got to the point where he doesn't want to get bowled out by people who shouldn't be bowling him out.

"He has been outstanding for the last 18 years. He was a magnificent player and some of his innings would certainly be termed as great. He was tremendously aggressive and took the bowling by the scruff of the neck."

Dickie Bird, who umpired both Gooch's first Test at Edgbaston when he got a pair against Australia in 1975 and his memorable innings of 333 against India at Lord's 15 years later, said: "I rate Graham right up there with all the great players I have seen."