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2 October 1998
Conrad Hunte: My First Test
by Philip Spooner
142 Right Off The Bat
It was with great pride that Conrad Hunte first walked onto the Test match arena four decades ago.
Hunte, then 25, stepped into the fray for the first Test against Pakistan at Kensington Oval and immediately made his mark.
In his first innings he cracked 142 as the West Indies reached 579 for nine declared in a drawn game.
The match was made famous when Pakistan batsman Hanif Mohammad batted for over ten hours to make 337, which earned a draw for the tourists.
For Hunte, it was a taste of cricket he would never forget.
"On the first day I ended on 142 not out and that was a double blessing - a hundred first up - but I was fortunate," he said.
"Just before lunch on the first day I was a little too careful and got a half-volley and in trying to be too cautious, I tapped the ball back to the bowler. It was the easiest of catches but the bowler dropped it."
Playing before a supportive home crowd, the former St. Andrew resident recalled how he dominated an opening stand of 122 with Rohan Kanhai, who made 27.
After Kanhai departed, he added 87 for the second wicket with Everton Weekes, who made 197.
Reflecting, Hunte thanked former West Indies fast bowler Herman Griffith for a bit of advice which went a long way.
He said that after he returned from a stint in the Lancashire League in England, Griffith observed that his reflexes were a little slow.
"My timing was a little off and the glares of the sun were brighter than I was accustomed to and I found myself all at sea," he said.
"Herman Griffith looked on in the nets and saw what was happening and said: `Son! You have to quicken up, so get somebody to throw at you quickly from half the length of the pitch.'"
For the next week that was all Hunte did and this put him in good shape for his international debut.
Before the Test match he opened with Cammie Smith against the Pakistanis in the colony match where he hit 77 against the wily seam attack of Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohammad and Mahmood Hussain.
Hunte had an outstanding series, making 622 runs in nine innings. Apart from his century in Barbados he hit 114 at Bourda, and a career-best 260 at Sabina Park, when he added 446 for the second wicket with Garfield Sobers.
This was the innings when Sobers made his monumental 365 not out, which broke Sir Len Hutton's record set at Kennington Oval, London in 1938. It was Sobers' first Test century.
Hunte remembered the occasion well.
"I was 60 when Garry came in, and you had a sense something big would happen. Garry was in good nick and when he was in touch nothing bothered the man at the other end," he said.
"We put on 200, 300, 400, 446, and I knew we were five short of the world record partnership.
"Then I tried to push a single and let Garry hit the four. The fielders were tired, but I did not remember that Ijaz Butt was the substitute. He was fresher than the others and I was run out by a direct hit."
Hunte's career for the West Indies almost never was, however. He had an opportunity to play for Kent County Cricket Club, which would have enabled him to qualify to play for England, but he turned it down.
He had a fruitful ten-year career, which produced 3 245 runs in 44 matches, including eight centuries.
Source :: The Barbados Nation (http://www.nationnews.com/)
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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