Mystery of Mr Consistency

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The Independent Online

Graham Thorpe is a model of consistency at any level, but in Tests he is something else. His 14th half-century for England in an impressive 40 innings is proof of that. Unfortunately that consistency works against him in one way. Yesterday's effort in the sixth Test should, like a fistful of the previous ones, have been turned into a hundred.

After all he marked his debut with a second-innings century against the Australians at Trent Bridge in 1993. But he is as puzzled as his fans, as to why a third Test hundred is playing hard to get. "I'm disappointed," he admitted, after making 74 of England's 233 for 5. "I was playing very well. I thought I'd got in, but I made one mistake. "

He denied losing concentration when he was caught behind to become one of Curtly Ambrose's three victims, but he did acknowledge: "The West Indies are at you all day. They try to wear you down. Their pace is pretty relentless." But the Surrey left-hander is confident that England have a good base.

It was Thorpe's departure which sparked a mini-collapse and exposed the frail spine of the England batting: the No 6 berth. The four players who have preceded the luckless Alan Wells this summer have collectively managed 55 runs between them for a total of 11 dismissals.

It began with Mark Ramprakash in the opening two Tests of the series. The 22 runs he managed in both innings of the first was followed by a pair at Lord's. Replacing him with Lancashire's Jason Gallian at Edgbaston resulted in just seven runs.

The selectors tried Yorkshire's Craig White and he at least top-scored in the position to date with 23. A solitary run in his second outing did not shake faith in him, but all he could manage at Trent Bridge was a total of two, one in each innings. Wells' first-ball duck on his debut simply underlined the problem.

County Cricket, Scoreboard, page 23