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Players who found more success on the county circuit than in international cricket
September 18, 2008
Many overseas players have brought their international success into county cricket, but for some the English domestic scene has offered a new lease of life after their top-level days were cut short for a variety of reasons. After a week where Grant Flower and Murray Goodwin starred for their counties, Cricinfo looks at XI players who found more success in county than international cricket.
In many ways Alley was a typical Australian. Never afraid to speak his mind, a fierce competitor who battled relentlessly, a hard drinker, and an entertainer. In his time he was a boxer, a boilmaker's assistant, a dancehall bouncer, and a sheep farmer. But his relationship with his homeland was strained, and after missing out on post-war tours, he headed to England where he seemed destined to forge a lucrative but relatively anonymous career in league cricket. But at 38 he was tempted to Taunton, following which, over 12 seasons, he passed 1000 runs ten times with his adventurous hitting. In 1961 he was the last man to make over 3000 runs in a summer. Even when he was sacked - shabbily so - at almost 50, he departed with a curse, as he believed he had a few years left in him. He took to umpiring in the same blunt manner, but was good enough to stand in ten Tests, and in retirement he remained in Somerset, where he had acquired cult status.
Not quite a full international - Australia were never short of quality batsmen in the 1990s - but Cox made it as far as Australia A, and so just squeaks in. During a six-year spell with Somerset he scored 6688 runs at 47.43 and had a typically uncompromising Australian attitude to his cricket. He led them to their best finish in the Championship, second place in 2001, the year they collected the C&G Trophy. His final season for Somerset, in 2004, ended with over 1000 first-class runs but his career faded back in Australia over the following two seasons. He retired in 2006, but has remained heavily involved and is now on the national selection panel.
Michael Di Venuto
Nine ODIs were the sum total of Di Venuto's career before his top-order spot was taken once and for all by Adam Gilchrist. A tally of 241 runs at 26.77 suggested he wasn't quite good enough for the highest level, but in county cricket he had no such issues for whichever team he played for. He spent six years at Derby, being named captain in 2004 before a back injury ruled him out for the season, but in 2007 joined Durham. He made his mark straightaway, carrying his bat for 155 not out against Worcestershire, and helped Durham to their first silverware, the C&G Trophy, plus second place in the Championship.
A legspinner who could more than hold his own with the bat, Dooland's career ran in virtual parallel to that of his friend George Tribe (see below). The war delayed Dooland's first-class debut - although he would have squeezed in a game or two beforehand had the bank he worked for allowed him to take time off. Afterwards he found immediate international recognition and, like Tribe, a decision to head to England followed, born out of frustration when overlooked for the 1948 Invincibles tour. Dooland headed to the Lancashire League, where he enjoyed tremendous success for East Lancashire, attracting the attention of Nottinghamshire. Qualifying for them in 1953, he made an inauspicious start, but in five seasons he grabbed 748 wickets and 4492 runs, taking 100 or more wickets each season, twice achieving the double, and earning selection for Players v Gentlemen in 1953 and 1954. He made a few more appearances for South Australia after ending his career in England.
When Flower took a stand against the Zimbabwe government at the start of the 2003 World Cup, he knew it would be the end of his international career. His final match of the tournament was his last ODI, but he continued to churn out runs for Essex. In all, he played five seasons of county cricket and amassed more than 1000 runs each time, with his best return being 1536 in 2006. The fact that it proved his final summer showed he could have gone on, but the England set-up came calling and he joined Peter Moores' new group of coaches. His impact on Essex, though, is still clear, as they continue to go from strength-to-strength in one-day cricket - an area where Flower excelled for club and country.
The first signs of Zimbabwe's strongest side breaking apart came in 2000 when Goodwin jumped ship after struggling to settle in the country with his wife and children. He returned to Australia, and a successful career with Western Australia, but in 2001 made the move that would define his domestic career. He joined Sussex, who were building a competitive team under Chris Adams, and quickly added steel and quality to the middle order. In 2003 he struck the boundary that gave the county their first Championship title, and he was a key part of their success in 2006 and 2007. He excelled in the one-day game too, and was a brilliant pacer of a run-chase - reviving memories of Michael Bevan. He showed he has a few years left in him with a stunning 87 to earn Sussex the Pro40 title in 2008.
It shows the riches that Australia had during the 1990s that Law managed an unbeaten half-century on his Test debut and didn't play again. His ODI career was longer, including the 1996 World Cup, and finished in 1999, after 54 games, when Law was dropped ahead of that year's World Cup. By then he was already a run machine in county cricket with Essex, racking up 8538 runs at 58.88, and after a falling out with the club he moved to Lancashire in 2002 with similar results. Before the current Championship game against Kent he had made 7742 runs at 56.10, although the trophies that his runs deserved continued to prove elusive.
Is Mushtaq the greatest ever overseas player? It's a good debate to have, but in the eyes of Sussex supporters, and Mushtaq's team-mates at Hove, it's a no-contest. His career was revived when he joined Sussex in 2003, as his international career was waning after 52 Tests and 144 ODIs. Some thought it a foolish signing, of a fading star who would clog up the system, but how wrong they were proved. Mushtaq enjoyed the game and played with a constant bounce and smile. He was still far too good for many county line-ups, taking 103 wickets in Sussex's maiden Championship title in 2003, and passed the 100-mark again in 2006. His form earned him a brief Pakistan recall, but it proved a rare failure for Mushtaq and his Test career ended in 2003. By the time he announced his retirement due to a knee injury, he'd taken 478 first-class wickets in six seasons for Sussex.
Already established as a good swing-bowling allrounder in county cricket by the time he made the first of his five Test outings in 1969, Shepherd used his familiarity with English pitches to take 12 wickets at 22.16 against England, but struggled more in the unfamiliar conditions of the Caribbean (where he only played one full domestic season). With the emergence of the phenomenal West Indies pace attack of the 1970s, Shepherd slid down the pecking order, disappearing from it altogether after touring South Africa in 1973-74. For Kent, though, he was a vital cog in a dominant side, appearing in seven one-day finals and contributing to three Championships. Even when they released him in 1981 at the age of 38, he wasn't finished, going on to enjoy another three successful summers at Gloucestershire.
A genuine left-arm wrist spinner allrounder, Tribe's career was delayed by World War Two, and although he finally won a call-up to the Australian side, he failed to reproduce his outstanding state form. His second Test, in 1946-47, was to be his final first-class match in Australia. He travelled to England in 1947 to play in the Lancashire League, found an engineering job, and decided to stay. He eventually qualified for Northamptonshire and after taking 40 wickets in his first four games, never looked back. In eight seasons he did the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets seven times, and in 233 matches he took 1021 wickets at 20.25 and scored 8141 runs at 21.86. In 1955 he was named as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year alongside another cricketing refugee from Australia, Dooland.
For a decade, Trott was one of the game's great allrounders, and yet, despite 205 runs for once out and 9 for 205 in his three Tests for Australia in 1894-95, he fell out of favour with the selectors and was persuaded by another Australian, Jim Phillips, to try his luck in England. Trott qualified for Middlesex and in 1899 he passed 1000 runs and took 239 wickets and made two Test appearances for England in South Africa. That summer he achieved immortality by thumping fellow Australian Monty Noble over the Lord's pavilion - he remains the only man to clear it. His excellent form continued in 1900, but then slowly began to fall away. His batting was rumoured to have been ruined by a desire to repeat his big hit, while physically beer, often handed to him on the boundary edge by admiring spectators, started taking its toll. His life went downhill as his career ended, and in 1914 he shot himself.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and Andrew McGlashan a staff writerFeeds: Martin Williamson
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