Cricket reacted quickly and responsibly in shutting down the game to try to minimise the crushing effects of the coronavirus. The absence of any cricket gives me an opportunity to reflect on an aspect of the game I enjoy: watching a batsman utilise good footwork to combat top-class spin bowling. Two innings stand out: one played by India’s VVS Laxman, the other by Doug Walters of Australia. Laxman’s incredible 281 at Calcutta in 2001 is the best I’ve seen against top-class legspin. At the conclusion of that exhilarating series I asked Shane Warne how he thought he bowled. “I don’t think I bowled that badly,” he replied. “You didn’t,” I responded. “If Laxman comes three paces out of his crease and hits an unbelievable on-drive against the spin and you then flight the next delivery a little higher and shorter to invite another drive and instead he quickly goes onto the back foot and pulls it, that’s not bad bowling. That’s good footwork.” Laxman regularly did this during his 452-ball stay, in which he hit 44 boundaries. Therein lies a clue to Laxman’s success: he consistently hit the ball along the ground. Laxman’s temperament was another huge part of his successful innings. He proved on that occasion –– and in many subsequent tight situations –– that he could ignore the team’s dire predicament and concentrate solely on the next delivery. That’s a great skill he shares with Walters. Laxman was a superb batsman against all bowling. His magnificent 167 at the SCG in 2000 included many powerful hooks, cuts and pulls against the pace of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath. However, his 281 in Calcutta was a defining knock. Laxman regularly did this during his 452-ball stay, in which he hit 44 boundaries. Therein lies a clue to Laxman’s success: he consistently hit the ball along the ground. Laxman’s temperament was another huge part of his successful innings. He proved on that occasion — and in many subsequent tight situations — that he could ignore the team’s dire predicament and concentrate solely on the next delivery. That’s a great skill he shares with Walters. Walters scored a Test century in a session three times. There are no complete records regarding this feat but I suspect only Sir Donald Bradman did it more often. Walters was the best player of offspin bowling I have seen; he didn’t just survive against the very best, he occasionally battered them into submission. He scored a sublime hundred on a Madras mine-field in 1969, facing the offspin wizardry of Erapalli Prasanna, clubbing 14 fours and two sixes in the process. However it was his century in a session on a receptive Queen’s Park Oval pitch that really captures how he dominated top-class offspinners. In that 1973 Test, Walters faced the first ball after lunch from the bowling of Lance Gibbs, who would later be the world record holder for most wickets taken. Gibbs, in the middle of a wicket-taking over, was directing his offspinners at a rough spot just outside the right-hander’s off stump. Walters promptly cover-drove –– a difficult shot for a right-hander against the turning offbreak –– the first ball for four. He collected another 13 fours and one six as he raced to 102 at tea. One sequence of deliveries from Gibbs summed up Walters’ dominance. Gibbs was bowling to a six-three on-side field when Walters, with lightning-quick footwork, went onto the back foot and pulled a delivery to the midwicket boundary. Gibbs immediately moved the point fielder to the midwicket boundary. The next ball pitched in virtually the same spot as the previous one and Walters, quickly into position, cut it past the now vacant point position. This prompted Gibbs to move the fielder back to point, and when his next delivery again pitched in a similar spot, Walters was in position for another pull shot to the midwicket boundary. That is the essence of good footwork: the batsman gets into the ideal position to hit the ball where he chooses, rather than where the bowler wants the shot to go. Walters was a freak, who, though he often stayed up late drinking and smoking, could still perform at the highest level. I’ve been privileged to watch many excellent players of spin, including Brian Lara. However, those innings of Laxman and Walters are prime examples of batsmen dominating against top-class spin bowling.