De Silva's technique touched by genius

By Henry Blofeld
Thursday 02 January 2014 03:28
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There was one moment of pure genius here yesterday. Aravinda de Silva is one of the few batsmen in the history of the game whose batting technique has been touched by the divine hand. He has scored more than six thousand Test runs and has distributed his favours just about equally against the attacks he has encountered.

Kent supporters will need no reminding of his talents, for he delighted them at the lovely St Lawrence ground almost as much as another left-hander, the legendary Frank Woolley, did all those years ago. The hundred De Silva made for Kent against Lancashire in the Benson and Hedges Cup final at Lord's in 1995 was one of the best ever played even on that ground.

The present De Silva is thicker-set than of old and he is now 36 years old, but genius is a commodity which does wither. De Silva came to the wicket on this fourth day earlier than he will have wanted and for two hours and ten minutes he sheltered behind a technically brilliant defence.

In among those defensive strokes, each of which would have found their way into any art gallery, he produced the occasional gem of an attacking stroke. There were some glorious drives, a hook which was perfection and one or two others off the back foot.

The supreme incident that demonstrated his genius as a batsman came towards the end of the morning when he faced the left arm spin of Ashley Giles. Knowing of De Silva's love of the sweep, which he plays pretty fine, Giles had a short fine leg who was so fine that he was not far off being a short long stop.

Giles, aiming at what little rough there was outside the right-hander's leg stump, flighted one up to De Silva outside his leg stump. De Silva pivoted and with complete certainty and a perpendicular bat, he hit the ball out of the middle of the bat no more than an inch or two past Alec Stewart's left foot and it raced away to the straight boundary.

Marcus Trescothick, at short fine leg, had no chance. Even Denis Compton, another genius who was perhaps the greatest improviser of all and who made the paddle sweep his own special trademark, could not have bettered this one. It will remain an abiding memory of four splendid days' cricket.

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