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During the winter of 2000-01, Graham Thorpe established himself as the most complete England batsman since the Gooch-Gower era, able to attack like Alec Stewart - against pace or spin - and to defend like Mike Atherton.
He had begun as a brilliant counter-attacking left-hander who came off the ropes from the start of his innings to punch a quick 20 and seize the initiative, an invaluable trait. In 1999-2000, he opted out of the tour to South Africa, a decision which seemed to be the final step before fulfillment.
The winter's rest, and time for reflection with his family, brought him to a mature peak - as a batsman who enjoyed his cricket again, the best all round fielder in the team, a contributor in the dressing-room and occasional captain.
But in 2002 and with England's busiest-ever winter looming, he announced his retirement from the one-day game, took an indefinite break from all forms of cricket, returned and announced his readiness to tour Australia - and then pulled out again in a move which seemed to signal the end of his Test career.
However, in another turnaround at the start of the 2003 English season, Thorpe again insisted he was ready to return to England colours, in both forms of the game, but was surprisingly overlooked for the first Test against South Africa.
He did return, though, for the crucial final Test at The Oval, where he delighted everyone with a century that helped set up England's astonishing comeback. Since that innings, Thorpe went on to score 1635 runs at 56.37 in England's successful run, also reaching the milestone of 100 Tests, against Bangladesh at the start of the 2005 season.
He was omitted from the squad to face Australia at Lord's on July 21, and one day into the match he announced his retirement, a decision that brought a premature end to the career of one of England's toughest competitors.