Graham Gooch has written a little, somewhat worrying, footnote in cricket's rule book. In certain circumstances, if he is batting when a meeting of the selection panel beckons, he could "retire not out", without the need to claim a tweaked hamstring to preserve his average. On the other hand, if the situation is knife-edge, there are provisions to rig up some form of telephone conference.
Both were possible yesterday, with Gooch due to leave Southend in late afternoon for the Manchester shuttle from Heathrow. If he could tear himself away from the crease, that is.
Gooch has every Essex batting record in his grasp, those he hasn't secured already, and before long will cruise past Keith Fletcher's county aggregate of 29,434. Yesterday's century, the third in successive Championship matches, was the 124th of his career, taking him past Denis Compton into the all- time top 10.
Gooch's booming bat is as broad as ever, and although Test cricket is rightly seen more and more as a young man's game, it is ironic that the best opening batsman in the country is not available. Before he drove away from the ground, he confirmed that any idea that he might find himself on the selectorial agenda was a "non-starter".
When Stuart Law joined Gooch for the first ball of a gloomy day, Essex were in danger of following on after a Friday evening clatter of wickets. But the track now refused to assist Surrey, the ball rising in predictable arcs from the floor, and they were reduced to raucous appeals whenever a pad was bumped, and shouts of "catch it!" each time the ball bobbled from the bat.
Law, as well as Gooch, is in form. His fifth Championship century of the season must finally give the lie to Australia's suspicion that he is a one-day specialist. His single Test cap is testament to his country's current riches. These two commanding batsmen flowed past the follow-on point in the hour after lunch. When the persevering Martin Bicknell at last convinced the umpire that ball, pad and wicket were in line, Law and Gooch had added 232 runs in 62 overs.
Just before tea, Gooch's seven-hour marathon also ended, avoiding the need for artificial retirement. The day's other marathon was that of the Surrey off-spinner Richard Pearson, whose 46 overs earned him five wickets before the sky closed in with 21 overs remaining.Reuse content