Hooper warms to opening task

Tour gets off to flying start as Guyanese all-rounder hits a sparkling century to put Duchess's men on the back foot
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The Independent Online
IF THE omen we saw yesterday is to be trusted, this may be the season when the men in charge of the England cricket team do not have to travel in disguise and book hotel rooms under false names. Michael Atherton, among others, will be interested to hear that the first blow against this summer's West Indies touring party was struck at Arundel yesterday by David Graveney, the latest member of the England selection panel.

In the 28th over of West Indies' innings, Graveney lured Sherwin Campbell, the opening batsman, into a false stroke and bowled him off his glove. Graveney, the retired left-arm spinner elected to Raymond Illingworth's committee during the winter, delivered not a single ball for England during his 20-year career as a professional cricketer with Gloucestershire, Somerset and Durham. But he has now, at 42, made the sort of start to his selectorial term that might please Illingworth, whose own nominee, Brian Bolus, was the victim of Graveney's success in the election.

Not surprisingly, Graveney looked delighted with his success. West Indies had just passed 100 without loss in their traditional tour-opening 50- over game against Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk's XI when he struck, soon after Campbell and his fellow opener, Carl Hooper, had begun to force the pace.

They had begun sedately enough, taking 18 overs to reach 50 in the beautiful little tree-girthed amphitheatre, which celebrates its centenary this year. Norman Cowans, once of Middlesex and England and now of Hampshire, took the opening over for the Duchess's XI, but after Hooper had driven his second ball through extra cover for four there was little more action until Campbell emulated the stroke half an hour later, with the same result.

While Cowans was bowling his first spell of six overs for 23 runs, at the other end Vasbert Drakes was keeping the batsmen quiet. A shaven-headed Barbadian of medium height and build, Drakes was considered unlucky not to have made the touring party; now he is here to play for Sussex seconds, and his good control was evident as he counted four maidens among his first half-dozen overs, at a cost of a mere two runs.

When West Indies were last at Arundel, four years ago, 9,000 turned up to watch Vivian Richards's team set the Duchess's XI a target of 212, going on to lose by two wickets. A month later, in the First Test at Headingley, England recorded their first home win over West Indies since 1969, going on to tie the series with that memorable victory in the final Test at the Oval. Richards's 1991 team was not the equal of his own 1988 touring squad, which won their series in England 4-0; nor could that team match Clive Lloyd's 1984 men, the authors of the celebrated "blackwash" over David Gower's England.

Arriving in England with the shame of their historic home series defeat by Australia still fresh in their minds, Richie Richardson and his players have much work to do if their are to reverse the perception that they are merely another dot on the graph of decline. Richardson apart, the three players most likely to exert a positive effect on the team's play were not in the field yesterday. Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh all took part only in the squad's pre-match warm-up exercises.

The most effective heating was provided by Hooper's gradual acceleration to 173 not out, the highest ever scored by a West Indian in this fixture, out of his side's total of 298 for three. Hooper is not the most charismatic of West Indian batsman, despite the fact that his average in all first- class matches on the 1991 tour was an astonishing 85.46, the highest ever recorded by a West Indian in England. But yesterday the tall 28-year- old Guyanese all-rounder looked as if he means business again this summer, carefully playing himself in before launching an assault that featured several straight blows over tents and into car parks. He scored his runs off 141 balls in 200 minutes, hitting nine sixes and 12 fours.

Drakes , who took two England wickets for 92 for Barbados during the 1994 tour, was easily the pick of the Duchess's bowlers, completing his 10 overs for 17 runs and no luck. After Campbell's departure for 38, Graveney might have had a second wicket when Hooper lifted the ball high to long- off, only to be dropped by Derek Randall, of all people. Kevan James, Hampshire's left-arm medium-pacer, had Richardson caught by Cowans at deep mid-on for 53 and Jimmy Adams lbw for 13.

Hooper's controlled violence had compensated the crowd for the absence of Lara, who is expected to play in the one-day match against Hampshire at Southampton today.

Kenny Benjamin and Ian Bishop opened the bowling for the touring team, the latter giving the crowd a glimpse of genuine West Indian pace when he had Paul Parker caught by Richardson for 7, with the score at 21. Eleven more runs had been added when Mark Richardson was caught by Bishop at long-on off the bowling of Ottis Gibson.

(West Indies won toss)

WEST INDIES

C L Hooper not out 173

S L Campbell b Graveney 38

*R B Richardson b Cowans James 53

J C Adams lbw b James 13

K L T Arthurton not out 3

Extras (lb8 w4 nb6) 18

Total (for 3, 50 overs) 298

Fall: 1-104 2-237 3-276.

Did not bat: S Chanderpaul, C O Browne, O D Gibson, I R Bishop, K C G Benjamin, R Dhanraj.

Bowling: Cowans 10-0-42-0; Drakes 10-4-33-0; Hughes 10-0-71-0; Murphy 3-1-6-0; Graveney 10-0-69-1; James 7-0-69-2.

LAVINIA, DUCHESS

OF NORFOLK'S XI

M Richardson not out 7

*P W G Parker not out 6

Extras (w2) 2

Total (for 0, 5 overs) 15

To bat: K D James, V Drakes, D W Randall, P R Downton, R J Parkes, D A Graveney, S P Hughes, N G Cowans, A J Murphy.

Umpires: J C Balderson and T E Jesty.

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