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April 19, 2006
Warwickshire 33 for 1 (Knight 21*, Klokker 3*) trail Sussex 302 (Wright 54, Streak 5-72) by 269 runs
Heard the one about Warwickshire's Danish wicketkeeper who almost lost sight in one eye and earns a living working for a stamp-collecting firm? No, I thought not.
Hove was chilly in the morning and flipping freezing by mid-afternoon. But luckily we had the uplifting tale of Freddie Klokker to warm our hearts.
Warwickshire thought they were pretty well off for keepers. There's Tony Frost who played all but one Championship match last year and then there's Tim Ambrose, the new signing from Sussex. But Ambrose injured his back in pre-season and then Frost pulled a muscle in his lower back (ie: his bum) last week.
So who do they turn to in their hour of need? Well, obviously they looked no further than Denmark's premier gloveman Frederik Andreas Klokker. And he took three catches, the first of which was a very decent effort low to his right to dismiss Carl Hopkinson.
His selection is not quite as random as it sounds. He was an MCC Young Cricketer for four years and during that time has fielded for England at Lord's (though he hasn't run out any Australians). Most people only get two or maybe three years in the Lord's 'academy' but Klokker's attitude earned him special favours. "He's just a bloody good bloke to have around," says Clive Radley, MCC's head coach.
Klokker trialled for Warwickshire last year and has been playing league cricket for Berkswell, a village near Coventry. So he is very much in Warwickshire's thoughts even though he doesn't have a contract. He earns a living working with the former Warwickshire batsman Dominic Ostler who runs a stamp-collecting business. Yes, really.
But this time last year Klokker's embryonic career was in danger when he was hit in the right eye keeping for MCC Young Cricketers against Yorkshire 2nd XI. For a while he thought the might lose sight in the eye but fortunately he was only out for a month.
He has a good cricket pedigree which is not something that can be said for many people from Odense. Klokker's dad Peter-Palle is the coach of the Denmark national team. It sounds like a Danish version of the Stewarts.
On such a red-letter day, it seemed appropriate to phone Claus Hansen, chairman of the Danish Cricket Association. I missed breaking the news to him by about half an hour though he didn't know about the catches. "We are so proud," said Claus, sounding quite emotional.
Klokker is believed to be the fifth Dane to play county cricket after the seam bowlers Ole Mortensen, of Derbyshire, and Kent's Amjad Khan, Soren Henriksen of Lancashire and Thomas Hansen at Hampshire. Soren Vestergaard was on Warwickshire's books, but didn't play first-class cricket. Last year Denmark were bowled out for 56 by Northamptonshire in the C&G Trophy. This was a day for showing that Danes could play after all.
Klokker's solid glovework sent three of the Sussex top six packing and helped turn a useful 108 for two into a dodgy 162 for six. Heath Streak, the Warwickshire captain, took a wicket with the last ball of the first over of the match and proceeded to take a wicket in the first over of two subsequent spells.
Sussex recovered well thanks to a maiden Championship fifty from the England A seamer Luke Wright and a breezy, unbeaten 42 from Mushtaq Ahmed. In misty, overcast conditions a total of 302 looked useful.
It looked even more useful when Warwickshire lost Ian Westwood in the sixth over to Duncan Spencer, a Lancashire-born but Perth-raised quick bowler who last played first-class cricket 12 years ago for Kent against Sussex, before heading to Australia then getting a drugs ban.
Warwickshire sent in a nightwatchman. It was Klokker, of course. And his first ball came from Spencer. Of course. Another triumph for the bizarre over the banal. You've gotta love county cricket.
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