Monday, 27 July 2009

Chris Tavare - arch blocker

From today's perspective, there are a number of astonishing things about the 1982-83 Ashes series, apart from the outcome of the fourth Test at the MCG. Robin Marlar, in Decision Against England, devotes a whole chapter to the innovation of an electronic scoreboard, and another to the introduction of a code of conduct. Ian Botham bats without a helmet against Michael Holding in a tour match.

But, more than all of these things, it is the speed of scoring that surprises most. Over ten almost-completed innnings, England never scored more than 3.7 runs per over. Overall, they averaged just 3.18. Australia were not much better. Things reached a nadir in the second Test at Brisbane when England crawled to 309 in their second innings in 127.3 overs.

If one man summed up the series' pedestrian scoring pace, it was the Kent opener and arch-blocker Chris Tavare (pictured above). His statistics in the series, and the first Test in particular, are scarcely credible. According to Marlar, 'the main interest during the morning session was whether Tavare would establish a world record for the amount of time spent without scoring ... it took him an hour and a half to move from 66 to 67'. The second innings wasn't much better - 'he made 9 from 6 scoring strokes in the two hours between lunch and tea'.

But is this quite so laughable as it seems? Perhaps the current England side could do with someone with a similar mentality. England have a team of stroke-players and have done for years - Pietersen, Bell, Strauss, Vaughan, all the wicketkeepers. Only Collingwood looks capable of playing a long, self-flagellating innnings, as he did at Cardiff, and even then you feel he had to make a conscious effort to rein himself in.

Maybe what England needs is a Tavare, a Boycott or a Trevor 'Barnacle' Bailey. Then again, maybe not.

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