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Team Talk STORY
The Batsman for Two Seasons

During the 1978-9 tour to Australia The Guardian printed a cartoon of the then England skipper Mike Brearley. Drawn by John Minnion, it depicted two Brearleys: one of them, the captain, is standing proudly and confidently on a pedestal; the other, the batsman, is a small, hesitant figure stretching up to cling onto the index finger of SuperMike. They might be different people.

It was a perceptive piece of caricature. Minnion's drawing reflected Brearley's different levels of accomplishment in two departments of the game. Now, though, let us consider the batsmen Stephen Moore in 2012. In 20- and 40-over cricket he plundered 830 runs at an average of 43.68, hitting one century and nine fifties; in the County Championship his 20 innings yielded 348 runs at 17.4 apiece. His last first-class fifty came against Somerset at Taunton on the final day of the 2011 campaign. (Readers of this website may recall the occasion.)

"In some respects last season was the toughest of my career," Moore admitted. "I've had tough years before but it was bizarre last summer in that I was scoring as many runs as I was in one-day cricket and finding my game was reaching new levels there, whereas I was barely batting long enough to feel in or out of nick in four-day cricket. I wasn't able to get any kind of rhythm or momentum in that format. It was two contradictory seasons for me.

"Cricket is a game of tiny margins," he added. "When you're in form and doing well, you go out there believing that you're going to score runs no matter what. The difficult thing is to be in a bad run and walk out convinced that today's the day when you're going to score a hundred.

Yet if Moore's four-day form went south, he never lost his sense of humour. Asked quite reasonably whether he'd ever considered batting in his one-day style in a County Championship match, he responded that he might have done so briefly but it was a trifle tricky to take the long handle to Graham Onions when he was pitching the ball on middle and leg and then making it jag towards second slip at say, 85mph.

Relaxing in Lancashire's indoor school after a morning's training, Moore is happy to enlarge on the problems he encountered with the various formats last summer.

"The fact is that we're talking about very different styles of cricket," he said. "Whereas in the one-day stuff we're playing on beautiful batting tracks on which we might score 280-300 runs in 40 overs, in the four-day game - which might be taking place 24 hours later - we're performing on green seamers where 220 in three sessions is a good total.

"So it's a challenge. Yes, there are times when you think, damn all the preparation, damn all the mental side, let's just go out there and see what happens, but it'd be naive to flippantly disregard the fact that they are fundamentally different games and conditions."

Of greater value to Moore than the "Up bats and at 'em" approach has been the memory of what a very good four-day cricketer he can be; good enough to be near Test selection only a few years ago. That cricketer hasn't disappeared off the face of the game, his argument might run, he merely went walkabout last summer.

"I take it on the chin," he said "I've played well in all forms of the game and I've proven myself over a long career. They all go down as learning experiences. I know that conditions were particularly difficult for those of us at the top of the order in 2012, so I wasn't by any means a stand out cricketer.

"I'm just going to keep working on my game and remember how I felt when I wasn't scoring runs, because that makes you hungry when you do find your form. It's a bit like Alastair Cook is finding now: when you're in nick, you cash in and break records.

"You evolve as a cricketer. A few  years ago I was nearly in the England side based on my four-day form whereas now my one-day cricket is my strength. My job is to keep learning and respond to the fact that my game is evolving. The challenge is to put the bowlers under pressure whatever type of cricket you're playing and people have different ways of doing it. You can look at someone like Jonathan Trott, who takes his time, or Kevin Pietersen, who can turn a game in half a session."

Whatever Moore does, he is not going to lose sleep over a season he can do nothing about. The healthy vocal chords of his daughter Emilia, born during the game at Worcester in 2011, ensure that shut-eye is now far too precious a commodity in the Moore household to be wasted in agonising over whether daddy got a big enough stride in at Aigburth last May.

Instead, Moore is taking comfort from the time-honoured practice of working hard and preparing properly for next spring. He doubts that there are answers to the problems he encountered in 2012 and prefers to get ready for the questions he might be asked in his eleventh season as a first-class cricketer. Having finished the rehab which followed his hernia operation in early November, he is now training hard. What else, one might ask, can he do?

"It feels like the season's a long way away," he said, "but one of the benefits of Lancashire's programme is that you get a long time to work on your individual skills, so that come February or March, you're in the best place possible for the start of the season.

"It's one thing to be out of nick in all formats and trying to find your way back; it's another when you know you're playing well in some games and yet still not scoring runs in others. You just work hard, prepare and hope your form will turn round if you keep doing the right things."

Paul Edwards

 

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