Perfect man for a batting crisis

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The Independent Online
If Jack Russell's monumental innings lacked anything, it was a touch of the magical, but graft, not craft, was the order of the longest day. And there were times in the remaining two and a half hours of his heroic effort when the figures on the field were as still as the famed stone circle.

But Russell's arrival at three figures was the ray of light. There was little ritualistic about the way the England wicketkeeper was hugged, in mid pitch, it was spontaneous joy and the centurion was a happy man.

"It was a great relief to get into three figures," Russell said. "I seemed to have been on 98 for at least three hours, I just couldn't seem to get those two runs. I found it harder as the day went on. And the Indian bowlers made it difficult."

But not so difficult that Russell could not get to that priceless second Test hundred. His first century came in 1989 against Australia. "Seven years is too long," he declared. ''I just missed out on one at The Oval last year and I was so determined to get into three figures today."

Russell, who was awarded the MBE in The Queen's Birthday honours earlier this month is proving something of a man for a crisis. Having saved the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg during the winter, when he batted for most of the final day in partnership with Mike Atherton, he found himself coming in on the first day with England on a rocky 107 for 5.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that prior to this Test he and Peter Martin went to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth where they spent an hour in "The Trench Experience." Russell must have had a glimpse of the immediate future.

"Maybe I play better in a crisis," he admitted. "I certainly enjoyed it out there. But I would have liked to have scored 136, that would have taken me past Alan Knott's 135 against Australia in 1977 at Trent Bridge. I was very disappointed to have got out and I am annoyed with the shot I played. It wasn't a good one."