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Great leap for Mark and Carl

by Mike Holding

14 March 1998

THIS series has seen a distinct and important advance in the cricket of two players, one on each side.

For Mark Ramprakash, his fighting innings in England's defeat at Bourda and now his long-overdue hundred have finally vindicated those who have always recognised his class.

For the West Indies, Carl Hooper, so long a defensive and makeshift bowler, has suddenly emerged as a genuine Test-class off-spinner.

Ramprakash has always looked to have the essentials to make the grade. But, as with so many players of promise, there is a big gap between potential and achievement and he started this tour, his second to the Caribbean, with an unflattering record.

One of the problems was that he had seldom been given a proper run. He often seemed to be batting for his place in the side and, even here, he was relegated to the reserves in the early part of the tour. There was a body of opinion that he lacked temperament. He has certainly dispelled that once and for all.

Both at Bourda and now here, he came in with England in deep trouble and he withstood the pressure each time. Apart from his early chance to Curtly Ambrose, this was a brilliant innings. Everything was right about it. His technique was flawless, as was his stroke selection. He was assured against both pace and spin, on front foot or back. It was his first Test hundred. There will be many more.

Hooper's improvement has given the West Indies bowling a much stronger look. It was probably the reason the selectors chose to take four fast bowlers into the match, rather than including the extra spinner.

Until the last couple of series, Hooper was used, and probably saw himself, as a break between the fast bowlers. I believe his defensive approach was influenced by One-Day cricket where the object is containment.

Now he is spinning the ball and making it bounce. Above all, his line is more suited to wicket-taking than containment. He is now bowling just outside off-stump, in front of the batsman, that opens up so many more options for a dismissal.

Previously, he concentrated more on middle and leg, looking to keep runs down rather than get batsmen out.

He can now be classified as a genuine all-rounder. His five wickets on this flat pitch was clear enough proof to Geoffrey Boycott that he can no longer be characterised as ̉the lollypop manÓ.

He has looked the best spinner on either side so far.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 14 Mar1998 - 19:07