Milburn's example gives Brown hope

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The Independent Online
Alistair Brown seems to have been roundly labelled as a limited-overs batsman in the mildly derogatory manner which suggests that no one in his right mind would even cast a thought in his direction when it comes to choosing an England Test side.

It is intriguing to speculate, therefore, on the international career of no less a batsman than Colin Milburn if he had been born into the modern game. At the start of his county career the one-day label would have been stuck on him, and would he ever have shaken it off?

The anticipation and excitement he created as a hard-hitting opening batsman with Northamptonshire and later England, helped, of course, by his Falstaffian figure, was extraordinary. Just like Brown, who is physically less noticeable, any big innings he played was enormously memorable.

Milburn caught the imagination of the 1960s cricketing public and, in turn, of the selectors. He broke the mould, providing an irresistible streak of individuality, and was taken seriously. He played in only nine Test matches between 1966 and 1968, because he was half-blinded in a car accident.

Milburn batted in such a way that even though he played few Tests he became a cricketing legend. Milburn's batting came to have a soundness of technique Brown's cannot yet claim.

In the last few days we have seen, however, how much Brown has learned. He has moved through a sort of frenetic batting discord, which brought him 37 runs at The Oval, to a confidence-sapping duck at Headingley, and on to a splendid hundred at Old Trafford.

Brown will develop and will, one hopes, learn to tighten his game without losing the flavour of his batting. There is no good reason why, given the chance, he should not one day take the initiative in a Test too, just as Milburn did against the West Indies at Lord's in 1966 and against Australia on the same ground two years later.