Six-hitter Graham was a top pupil

HE may have written his way into the record books after smashing 16 sixes in one innings, but it came as little surprise to Graham Napier's former PE teacher.

Russell Claydon

HE may have written his way into the record books after smashing 16 sixes in one innings, but it came as little surprise to Graham Napier's former PE teacher.

The Essex batsman set Chelmsford alight with a blistering 152 not out - off just 58 balls - in a Twenty20 Cup clash against Sussex on Tuesday night

But last night, in the wake of the spectacular batting display, the 28-year-old's former PE teacher told how Graham had always been a talented sportsman.

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Roger Springett, now assistant headteacher at Graham's former school, The Gilberd School in Colchester, said: “I was at home having a meal with my daughter when the phone went and a teacher I used to work with shouted 'watch Sky Sports now', and I managed to catch the last three overs.

“It was immense and I would like to see him go all the way now. Certainly there is a buzz about him.”

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Mr Springett remembers when he used to play cricket for Colchester and always seeing Graham in the nets practising with his dad.

“I have kept in contact with him and he came along to the launch of our sports college status and opened the new reception last year,” he said.

“I assessed his GCSE PE and he did not get a 10 out of 10. He got a nine out of 10 for his coursework but he did do very well.

“He is also a very good footballer and he was on West Ham's books. He had a big decision to make when he was 15 as he got offered a professional contract.”

Playing as a goalkeeper Graham was also training at Ipswich Town, alongside England-capped Richard Wright, which may have influenced his decision to change boots for bats.

Mr Springett added: “He is a very talented young man, one you spend a lot of time coaching and enjoy working with. He was also a good athlete and could throw a javelin very far.”

Graham's affinity for his old school is still strong and he has been back to give talks about his career as a professional sportsman as well as attending the launch of the sports college status last year.

Last night, he told the East Anglian Daily Times that Tuesday night's match was one he would never forget.

The 16 sixes he hit was the highest number ever recorded in an innings in Twenty20 cricket.

“It was a fantastic night for me - really awesome,” he said. “I middled a few early on, started seeing the ball well and things just got better and better. It was just one of those days when everything seemed to go well. Even a bit of a mis-hit finished up going for six.”

His innings helped Essex to 242 for three, a target which proved well beyond Sussex as they were bowled out for 114.

Paul Grayson, his coach, said: “That was the best ever display of hitting I've seen in a one-day game. I don't know anyone who hits a ball cleaner than Napes and he might have just made himself a few quid with that performance.”

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