523 and Counting

There is something elemental and magnificent about huge partnerships.

I've been a personal witness to a few big ones - Adrian Dale and King Viv at Sophia Gardens, 1993, Robin Martin-Jenkins and Mark Davis at Taunton, 2002, Trott and Broad at Lord's last year - and it always seems just a little bit amazing that players can bat for so long against professional bowling and not be parted. Many components go into stands like this: skill, timing and patience of course, but also, to be sure, plenty of luck.

During the early days of this blog, in late July 2006, I wrote about the experience of following the Cricinfo commentary as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara advanced on the world record in Colombo.

Yesterday was different. It was a busy day at work, and while I sneaked the odd glimpse at the scores from Northampton and Scarborough, events at the Rose Bowl passed me by until the day's end.

When I discovered that Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie had put on 523 for Hampshire's third wicket, batting together through 135 overs, I reflected on the fact that it was a far cry from the days when the newly-minted pitches at the Bowl used to favour the bowlers, but I also considered the fates of the players involved.

Neil McKenzie, from the Highveld of South Africa and with his 36th birthday in clear sight, always was a good player. Reliable, unfussy, with plenty of strokes and also the broadest of dead bats when necessary (as I discovered to my cost during two of the longest days' cricket-watching of my life at Lord's in 2008). In the autumn of his career, he would have formed an ideal partner for the star of the show, Michael Carberry, a fine player from the south London suburbs whose struggles with serious illness over the last year have come close to ending his career.

Both have played Test cricket - McKenzie has 58 caps for South Africa, Carberry one for England - but both are unlikely to wear their country's colours again.

They will always, though, have Southampton.

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