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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Solanki finds new maturity
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Lord's

Once he got going on Saturday, Solanki was in fine touch
Once he got going on Saturday, Solanki was in fine touch

With Vikram Solanki about to embark on his third stint as an England one-day batsman, the signs from Saturday's C&G Trophy final, where he hit 115, are encouraging.

The Worcestershire opener has long been regarded as a flamboyant and elegant strokemaker.

But far too often along with the dash had come the rash - a glorious cover-drive for four followed by a foolish swipe and a valuable wicket tossed away.

Upon losing the toss on Saturday morning, Worcestershire were fighting a much tougher battle than their opponents.

Heavy rain on Friday had left the wicket under-prepared and the ball swung and seamed extravagantly early on.

Solanki stood at one end as Jon Lewis induced outside edges from three batsmen in the first seven overs to take three massive wickets.

But Solanki did not panic.

Lewis and James Averis gave him nothing to hit, but still he did not break a sweat.

After 12 overs the score had inched along to 17 before he finally got going with his first boundary coming off a free-hit following a Lewis no-ball.

Then, like a wine connoisseur discovering a collection of fine clarets in a poky corner of his cellar, Solanki pulled out some exquisite drives.

Mark Alleyne was stroked through the off-side three times and also lofted over mid-wicket.

Alex Gidman found himself driven on both sides of the wicket, and a pull off the same bowler brought Solanki his ninth boundary.

Solanki had a terrible run of form on the Bangladesh tour
Solanki had a terrible run of form on the Bangladesh tour

Perhaps his best shot came when Lewis was punched back over his head for yet another four after a delightful little sashay down the wicket.

Eleven runs short of a century he was dropped at extra-cover - perhaps the first mistake he had made.

And Solanki made Gloucestershire rue that error by Tim Hancock because he then despatched Michael Hussey for three fours in an over.

Finally he was out, stumped off the spinner Martyn Ball, the first slogged shot he had attempted and with only six overs to go he was entitled to it.

Despite a snail-like start he had struck 115 off a total of 136 balls playing genuine cricket shots throughout.

That achievement was in stark contrast to David Leatherdale's 66 off just 18 fewer deliveries.

The maturity shown by Solanki on this occasion is something that could stand him and England in good stead for the future.

He was named man of the match and his captain Steve Rhodes said: "Vikram's was one of the best knocks I have ever seen in the time I have been playing.

"He played terrifically well in very difficult circumstances."

Praise indeed from someone who has been involved in first-class cricket for more than 20 years.

Ignore the fact Worcestershire lost heavily on Saturday - it was through no fault of Solanki who looked more glum-faced than most of his colleagues when collecting his runners-up medal.

Alongside Marcus Trescothick, he must be the right choice for now to open for his country, allowing Michael Vaughan to drop down the order as he has done in Test matches.

And surely it will be third time lucky for this stylish batsman.


SEE ALSO
Solanki signs new deal
27 Aug 04  |  Worcestershire
England reveal Trophy squad
06 Aug 04  |  Cricket


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