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Brian Lara's final innings ended in anticlimax, but he is not alone in not bowing out in fairytale fashion. Here are 11 other players who have departed with a whimper rather than a bang
April 26, 2007
Brian Lara's final innings ended in anticlimax, but he is not alone in not bowing out in fairytale fashion. Here are 11 other players ... well, 12 actually ... whose departures have been low key
Botham's last hurrah came at Lord's in 1992, but he had long since ceased to be a force at Test level. Clearly not in the best shape, he had broken down with a groin strain in the previous Test, and again injury - this time a bruised toe - made him a bit-part player. On the last day, with Pakistan needing 137, Botham (and Phil DeFreitas) was unable to bowl and England had to lean on three bowlers. They did reduce Pakistan to 95 for 8, but in the end the trio flagged. Botham was by then a passenger, and he dropped a shoulder-high chance at gully to add to his woes. "Botham was there," noted John Woodcock in The Times,"still a massive presence but now, unfortunately, a much less active one." Alan Lee, in The Guardian, echoed those sentiments, writing: "All that is left is a cricketer well past his physical and psychological prime." And with the bat, Botham was all at sea, cleaned up for 2 and 6 by Waqar Younis. His only solace came when he took a slip catch in Pakistan's first innings to equal Colin Cowdrey's English Test record of 120.
In his day a great keeper and pugnacious lower middle-order batsman, Healy's form with both bat and gloves fell away markedly in 1999, so much so that in his last 12 matches he averaged only 8.94. He returned from the tour of Zimbabwe with 395 international dismissals to his name, and, while realising his time was up, hoped the selectors would allow him to bow out in the first Test of the season at the Gabba, his home ground. They were having none of it, and he was replaced with Adam Gilchrist and immediately retired. "I think if you are a 100-Test player you deserve to walk off the field saying goodbye," he later observed. As it was, he bowed out with 5 at Harare Sports Club.
One of England 's greatest post-war batsmen and among the first of the game's commercial magnets, Compton 's career was increasingly troubled by a knee injury sustained before the war while playing for Arsenal. He had his kneecap removed in 1955 and, recalled for the final Ashes Test in 1956, he thrilled a packed Oval by making 94. But he made one more tour that winter to South Africa, and there was no fairytale finale. His Test career ended at Port Elizabeth with 0 and 5. Alan Ross wrote: "He struggled, a plain man in a world of riddles. Where he used to charm and delight, he was now silent. A gay, daring conversationalist who, having said all he had to say, still remained on at table, handsome, legendary but mute. One would have preferred, infinitely, that he had lost his wicket each time in daring rather than in the humble, dismissive role he felt somehow called on to play."
West Indies ' selectors had raised more than a few eyebrows when they picked George Headley for the first Test of the 1953-54 series against England. He was 44 and had not played a Test for four years, but it was a sentimental selection to pick him on his home ground. When he batted, he was welcomed by what EW Swanton described as "an ecstasy of applause". England spread the field "as happens when a man comes in to bat in his benefit match" and gave him a single, a fact he acknowledged by doffing his cap. "Test cricket is an often grim, humourless business," Swanton wrote, "and it is pleasant to think there is still room for an occasional gesture of sentiment." It ended there. Headley made 16 and 1 and bowed out quietly.
In 1974-75, Thomson destroyed England with some of the fastest bowling ever seen. After a shoulder injury sustained in a collision during a Test in 1976, he was never quite as potent, but he was still good enough. But by the time he arrived for his fourth tour of England in 1985, he was a shadow of the terror he had once been. He played only two Tests, the first - where he took 2 for 166 - and the last at The Oval where in 19 overs he was smashed for 101. He did take one wicket, which was his 200th in Tests and his 100th against England, and a boundary catch to dismiss Botham that was accompanied by a no-nonsense gesture to spectators who had been baiting him all day. His only other contribution to the series was that he sported one of the worst bleached mullets to be seen on a cricket field.
For two decades Sobers had been one of the game's true greats, but by the time England toured the Caribbean in 1973-74 he was 37 and in decline, mainly because his body was ravaged by non-stop cricket. He played four of the five Tests, missing one through injury, and his final outing in Trinidad ended in defeat. In the first innings he was applauded all the way to the middle but made only 3. In the second, he came in with West Indies wobbling in a run chase. He scored 20 before playing all over a slower ball from Derek Underwood and being bowled. With him went West Indies' last hope of victory. He did have the solace of three wickets.
Mike Gatting/Graham Gooch
Two of England's best batsmen of the 1980s bowed out together at Perth, but for the 41-year-old Gooch and the 37-year-old Gatting it was a tour too far. There were highlights - Gatting's hundred in the fourth Test being the outstanding one, but in eight other innings he averaged 8.12. Gooch managed one fifty in ten innings. In the final Test they managed 58 runs between them - 18 less than their combined age, as one wag noted - and Gatting picked up a first-baller. In the second innings "together they stayed 26 balls and neither gave any compelling evidence why they should rescind their decisions to retire," wrote Mike Selvey. Gatting came in at No. 3 even though he had been off the field for all of Australia's innings. "Australia offered no objection," noted Martin Johnson, "presumably on the grounds that Gatting coming it at No. 3 made it more or less certain that they would soon be bowling at England 's No.4."
England's captain and golden boy fell from grace in 1977 when it was revealed he had been instrumental in the recruiting of players for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. In the space of days he went from pin-up to punchbag. Despite many arguing he should be dropped - some thought public disembowelment would not have been sufficient - England retained him in the side, albeit stripped of the captaincy, for that summer's Ashes. For a man who entranced and enraged crowds in equal measure, the end was quiet, a drive to gully at The Oval for a duck. It was widely thought at the time that the Packer link meant that it was the final outing for several others, including Alan Knott and Derek Underwood, but they played again post WSC.
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