July 24, 2002

Southampton Diary: What Kevan James and Mark Dennis have in common

48 runs, 8000 quid and plenty of laughs:

The Hartley Wintney cricket club, quite close to Camberley, where Shaun Udal began his career as a club cricketer, played host to a delightful day of cricket as part of Udal's benefit year. The picturesque little ground with marquees all about for a lager, Pimms or burger, "if you were feeling peckish or thirsty," as the announcer on the public address system kept reminding us, proved to be the ideal setting on a perfect English summer day.

It came as no surprise that a Hampshire XI, led by Udal, and eaturing stars like Robin Smith, Alan Mullally (in his new role as wicketkeeper-opening batsman!) Neil Johnson and company won the toss and elected to bat. A runfest followed, with the Hants XI putting on 343 in 35 overs. The highlights included fifties from Mullally and a few others. 14-year old Hartley Wintney colt Roy Cochran will remember the day fondly as the one in which he bowled out Robin Smith!

As it turned out though, it was erstwhile Southampton footballer Mark Dennis who was the star of the day. Known more for his hard tackling, and perhaps slightly long list of send-offs, the Saints defender was on his best behaviour. The 80s footballer is an ardent Hampshire supporter who can often be spotted at the cricket - both home and away. Although he did not quite rise to the dizzy heights of playing for England, Dennis did play for England Under-21s and Under-23s. Bowling his left-arm spin and running around tigerishly, he made sure that Hartley Wintney were stopped dead in their tracks for 326, and Hampshire XI won!

Four in four and a hundred, not bad for a couple of days' work:

Kevan James never played for England. Not once in either a Test or limited-overs game. So what's all the fuss about then? Well, when India toured England in 1996 and took on Hampshire at the Northlands Road ground at the end of May, they got off to a cracking start, with openers Ajay Jadeja and Vikram Rathore putting on 192 before James claimed his first scalp, having Rathore stumped by Adrian Aymes. Then the deluge began - SR Tendulkar c Laney b James, R Dravid lbw James and SV Manjrejar c Terry b James all for duck! Tendulkar's was a golden duck to boot.

"You know, that day has taken on more significance now, in my work as a sports journalist, than when I was playing. I get introduced all the time as the bloke who took four wickets in four balls and scored a century in the same game!" said a modest James, at the Rose Bowl doing work for BBC Radio. "That sort of performance is like having letters after your name," he said with a smile.

His feat of taking four wickets in four balls and scoring 103 the next day has never been emulated in the long and illustrious history of First Class cricket. "I'm obviously tremendously proud of that achievement. When I look back and see how many cricketers, who were so much better than me, who did not achieve that, it feels good.

"I must admit though, there are other times when I've felt equally proud - like the time I made 142 against Nottinghamshire against an attack that had Clive Rice and Sir Richard Hadlee in it," said James. Yeah sure Kevan, you remember what you want, we'll always know you as the man who took 4 in 4 and scored a 100 against us!