Hooper sets tone with early blast

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reports from Taunton

West Indies 398-5 v Somerset

The vexed question of who opens for the West Indies in the six-match Test series may have been answered here by a stand of 241 in 52 overs between Carl Hooper and Sherwin Campbell. Should they win the nomination, the news will not be greeted with dismay by England.

Both are traditional Caribbean stroke players. Campbell has almost no experience of facing top-class quick bowling in English air and light and off English turf. Hooper, older, wiser and sometimes sadder after his experiences with Kent, is not by nature an opening batsman; he could never play the film double for Geoff Boycott. Yorkies would keel over in shock.

That is not to say that, given the right conditions, as here, Hooper and Campbell will not prosper, but this performance should be placed in context. The pitch, prodded suspiciously by Richie Richardson, played true, if a little slow, and the outfield, recovering swiftly from a heavy downpour an hour before start, proved fast. The West Indies' captain demonstrated he could read English pitches by choosing to bat.

He may also have sufficient knowledge of Somerset's current weaknesses to take advantage. Andre van Troost will be absent for up to another six weeks with back trouble; Andrew Caddick's sore shins could keep him out until August.

Without their two senior seam bowlers, Somerset have to open with the all-rounders Graham Rose and Simon Ecclestone, their only two other specialists being Mushtaq Ahmed and Harvey Trump, the spinners. Remembering that Archie MacLaren and Graeme Hick both passed 400 on this ground, one feared for Somerset.

As some kind of transfer system will soon be adopted (there being no other option) the Test and County Cricket Board might consider some form of loan transfer to cover such circumstances as Somerset's. They could then borrow one or two experienced seamers, if available, until the crisis is passed. As things stand, Somerset have probably already reached the zenith of their summer, the quarter-finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup.

A good crowd expecting Brian Lara, who was rested, were cheered by the sight of both Hooper and Campbell swishing away in the early overs. Neither let a loose delivery escape entirely and if Campbell had connected with one or two extravagances, the ball would have finished on Exmoor.

Hooper, expectedly, soon began middling and from then on the punishment rate soared. The pair had raised 108 in 25 overs to lunch, Hooper went to 98 with a six off Trump, made his century out of 180 (124 balls) and took the score past 200 with another six off Eccelstone.

Campbell was seven off his first tour century when he leapt at one of Andy Hayhurst's dobbers and slashed it straight into deep point's midriff. In the next over Richardson, beaten once by Mushtaq, stretched forward to the leg-spinner and dollied to silly mid-off; seven runs later Hooper, trying to pull an eighth six skied to midwicket - 176 off 179 balls. Sedate run gathering was interrupted by a diving catch behind to remove Keith Arthurton.