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Following On: From Alex Hales To Alex Hales

This week England’s latest dasher opens and closes a show which features an Indian express, a golden age allrounder, an Aussie legend and a batsman who was in the right place at the right time.

Words: Richard H Thomas

Alex Hales

It was, said the Guardian’s Andy Wilson, “a single short of perfection” leaving Hales simultaneously “thrilled” yet “gutted”; the disappointment is amplified when scuppered so close to that most elusive of milestones – an international Twenty20 ton. Coming as close to immortality as his grandfather who succumbed to Rod Laver in five sets at Wimbledon in 1967, Hales the younger has provided a cheerful answer to the question: “What happens now KP has retired?” Derek Pringle noted the innings may “not have pleased the aesthetes” but also celebrated its efficiency; there can be no contesting the timing of the strokes and the timeliness of the knock itself. With a World Twenty20 crown to defend in Sri Lanka in September and no more short-format internationals for England before the team is picked, Hales has made a strong statement. His international debut coincided with the 42nd birthday of…

Javagal Srinath

Reflecting on Srinath’s 2002 retirement from Tests, Simon Briggs reported that amid “mutterings about arthritic fielding and expensive first spells”, the Indian selectors also called time on his ODI career. In his pomp, wrote Briggs, the man from Karnataka “was arguably the finest – and certainly the fastest – seam bowler in Indian history” even accounting for Kapil Dev’s “extra 200 wickets”. Certainly nippy – Sky measured him at 93 mph in 1998 – more importantly, along with Dev, Srinath elevated Indian pace bowling into something much more significant than a curtain-raiser for the tweakers. Despite writing him off in 2002 and Hugh Bateson calling him “on the wrong side of venerable”, the same selectors recalled him for the 2003 World Cup. After a stellar tournament, including 4-30 versus Netherlands and 4-35 against Sri Lanka, age did actually catch up with Srinath in the final and he went for almost nine an over as Ponting and Martyn went berserk. His ODI debut was played on what would have been the 116th birthday of…

Len Braund

Surrey’s discarding of Len Braund, according to Christopher Martin-Jenkins, was “a lapse equal almost to that involving Essex and Jack Hobbs”. He moved to Somerset in 1901 and according to the Cider County’s hero Sammy Woods, subsequently Braund was “the best all-round cricketer who ever played for Somerset”. Albeit the judgement was made decades before the arrival of IT Botham, for the next dozen years Woods suggested they would have been “lost without him”. Denzil Batchelor suggested that Braund brought to the game “leg breaks, faster than such balls have a right to be”, batting “with real body” and slip fielding “more astonishing than any seen in a month of Saturdays”. After playing days were over he umpired three Tests and despite a double leg amputation, CMJ reports that “one of cricket’s gentlemen” retained “enthusiasm and innate cheerfulness” to the end. His last day as a Test umpire was the 19th birthday of…

Stan McCabe

Aussie scribe Jack Pollard theorised that Stan McCabe’s Test career was defined by three “historic” innings. One was his 232 not out against England in the 1938 Trent Bridge Test. After that one, Bradman told him: “If I could play an innings like that, I’d be a proud man, Stan”. Another was his 189 not out while attempting an audacious victory over South Africa in 1935/36. He would have surely led his team home but for the weather. The most famous knock, however, was his 187 not out against the Bodyline onslaught at Sydney in 1932/33. There he hit 29 fours in what he modestly described as “an impulsive, senseless innings”, reflecting that in light of the England fast bowler’s 10 wickets: “it was really Larwood’s match, not mine”. One of the greats without any doubt, McCabe’s first day of Test cricket was also the 31st birthday of…

George Gunn

Christopher Martin-Jenkins called him the “audacious batting genius with a quizzically humorous but moody character” who would incomprehensibly block modest bowling and then slaughter the best of attacks. Omitted from the 1907/08 Ashes touring party Down Under, he was visiting Australia “for his health” and was drafted in when skipper Arthur Jones fell ill, ahead of Jack Hobbs when according to Batchelor “no man on earth had a right to keep Hobbs out of a Test team”. With impudent nonchalance, in this game – his Test debut – Gunn made a century and 74. Thereafter his Test appearances were sporadic; he played his last match in England colours in his 51st year, maintaining that “the trouble with modern batsmen is that they pay too much attention to the wicket – and the bowling”. Gunn was a right-handed opening batsman for Nottinghamshire, just like… Alex Hales!

Click here to read last week’s Following On: From Mike Atherton To Mike Atherton

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