December 28, 1999

No wrist slap for slow coach Hussain

Durban - Mud sticks, so does the stigma of being axed by the national selectors for playing a slow innings, although it is 34 years since Geoff Boycott was ditched by England selectors then headed by Doug Insole.

It is an episode which still rankles with the forthright Yorkshireman, who was critical of the way Ken Barrington was also ditched by England for a similar offence.

Not that Nasser Hussain is likely to feel the same sort of wrath from David Graveney's panel as England moved into day three with a declaration which surprised no one. In fact Tim Lamb, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, was quite happy around tea on day two with England 336 for five, their captain undefeated on 130 after more than nine hours at the crease.

Insole's draconian measure of more than merely slapping both batsmen over the wrist because they did not bat "fast enough for the needs of the team" may surprise in terms of current England batting episodes where centuries are becoming an endangered species.

Both batsmen had scored centuries: admittedly it was against a supposed weaker opposition, both against New Zealand, Barrington's 185 at Leads in 1965, for Boycott it was against India at Leeds in 1967 when he had just started wearing contact lenses.

Hussain at least acknowledged on Monday night the role Alec Stewart's played in helping England to their close of play total of 366 for nine. It was the Surrey man's display of discipline mixed with his swashbuckling style of strokeplay which relieved him of the pressure.

"All credit must go to him for the way he played," said Hussain. "I thought at one stage he would go past me easily at one stage."

Hussain, ever the man for the understatement, agreed he had batted "on auto pilot" for most of his innings.

"It goes that way at times. You switch over and play that way. It's really a mind game and you have to be mindful of where you are playing your strokes," he said.

"You have to be disciplined enough not to play a loose shot and that is what counts, especially as there were times I was suffering a little cramp from the heat and the humidity," he added.

Boycott argues, however, had the centuries he and Barrington scored were in an Ashes Series, or against the West Indies, they might not have been axed and spared the stigma of being labelled "slow batsmen".