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Eleven players who made a return to the fold after their time had appeared to have passed by
May 8, 2008
Last weekend David Lloyd, the former Lancashire and England batsman turned TV commentator, was set to make his comeback for Accrington in the Lancashire League aged 61. The rain put paid to his first game, but there have been plenty of players who made a return to the fold when their time appeared to have passed by. Cricinfo looks at XI.
Arguably the best batsman in the world at his peak, Ranji was completely at the other end of the spectrum when he played his final first-class match. By 1920 he was 47 years old, overweight, and had lost an eye in a shooting accident. He also had not played a county summer in eight years. Expectations should not have been high, but this was a revered man who introduced the late cut and the leg glance to the game, and the crowds and the press converged on Leyton to see him captain Sussex. In the field, he dropped anchor in the slips but still struggled, and with the bat he was barely a shadow of his former self. His two outings brought 39 runs at 9.75 and it was a sad way to end one of the most illustrious of cricket careers.
The same year that Ranji was playing without one of his eyes, Denton was turning out for Northamptonshire with arguably a bigger problem - he only had one full leg. He played seven matches for the county as a middle-order batsman either side of World War I, and during the war had lost part of his leg. During his three appearances in 1919 and 1920, he batted with one of his brothers as a runner, a situation that opposing captains were loath to object to. "If any fellow has been to the war and has had his leg off and wants to play, he is good enough for me and can have 20 runners," the Lancashire captain wrote, after being asked to give Denton permission. In his final match Denton made 15 and 37. He fielded exclusively at point, although short leg would have been particularly ironic.
Perhaps even sadder than Ranji's mediocre comeback was the decision of Hammond, one of the undisputed legends of cricket, to play a match in each of the 1950 and 1951 seasons. He was nearly 50 and had not played since announcing his retirement following a disastrous Ashes tour of Australia in 1946-47. On that visit he was already a shadow of his exceptional pre-war self, so what could anybody expect from him half a decade later? Unfortunately, the Gloucestershire faithful anticipated brilliant things. In 1951 Hammond was convinced to play a one-off Bank Holiday match against Somerset in a bid to boost Gloucestershire's membership. He made only 7, despite being gifted wide half-volleys by a Somerset attack who did not want to embarrass the former champion, and there were suggestions a run-out chance was deliberately missed. "What did they expect," Hammond said. "A hundred from me as well?"
Taylor was enjoying the hospitality tent at Lord's during the 1986 Test against New Zealand. He was 45 at the time and had been retired for two years. Then suddenly England had a wicketkeeping emergency after Bruce French was hit on the head by Richard Hadlee and was unable to take up his position. After a few overs of Bill Athey behind the stumps, and having gained the assent of New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney, England persuaded Taylor out of retirement and he took the field for the rest of the second day. "[Taylor] equipped himself with an assortment of borrowed kit, although he did, far-sightedly, have his own gloves in his car," reported Wisden. "Despite having retired from first-class cricket two years earlier, Taylor ... kept without a blemish." It was a short-term recall as Bobby Parks, the Hampshire keeper, was drafted in the next morning making what is believed to be the only instance of four wicketkeepers being used by one team in a Test.
Lloyd will be hoping for a more successful club comeback than Boon achieved last January. Boon, 47, might have age on his side but there's every chance Lloyd, 61, is in better shape. It was a distinctly ruddy-cheeked Boon who turned out for University in a Twenty20 match in Hobart's grade competition this year, nine seasons after his final appearance for Tasmania. The idea was to entice fans to club cricket, but their hopes of a vintage Boon innings ended soon, which was not surprising as he conceded he had done "very little" to prepare for the match. Instead of being shielded from the new-ball, Boon decided to open and immediately found himself facing Chris Duval, who played four Pura Cup games for Tasmania during the summer. A quick single - well, as quick as Boon could manage - got him off the mark but he was bowled for 2 attempting an off drive. Surprisingly, the club didn't rule out Boon making another appearance in future.
Having a 12-year gap between ODI caps is one thing, but what makes Wilson's story more extraordinary is that he became an All Black legend in between, scoring 44 tries in 60 Tests. When he retired from rugby aged 28, he gave cricket another crack, and his career came full circle in 2004-05 when he was selected to play against a World XI. He claimed 3 for 6 in one match which earned him a further chance at ODIs, against Australia, who he'd previously faced in 1993. That was a more sobering experience with one wicket in two matches as Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist showed how the game had changed while Wilson been away on the rugby field.
A handy fast-bowling allrounder, Cummins played five Tests and 63 ODIs for West Indies from 1991 to 1995. When his first-class career ended in 1995-96, it seemed a safe bet that that was it for Cummins. It was a major surprise, therefore, when he turned up in Canada's squad to play in the World Cricket League in 2006-07. Cummins was 40, had not played a high standard of cricket for more than a decade, and had been plucked out of the Cavaliers club in the Toronto and District Cricket Association. His return in the tournament in Kenya was a distinctly underwhelming - five wickets at 48.60 with an economy rate of 6.39. Was his career really over this time? No, he somehow won a spot in Canada's World Cup squad and managed three games, again with unimpressive results. This time, permanent retirement beckoned.
Twenty20 is meant to be a young man's game, but Surrey bucked the trend when they offered Chris Lewis, the former England allrounder, a contract for the 2008 tournament and a return to one of his previous clubs. Even at 40, Lewis remains extremely fit, having continued to play club cricket and the occasional PCA Masters game, but this isn't exactly a signing for the future. However, Lewis is convinced he could handle the step up. "I've had a bit of a slow start in the nets but it's starting to come together. I'm excited by the idea," he said. The Twenty20 is not until June, which gave Lewis a couple of months of hard training, but then came an early call-up. Surrey had been hit by injury and illness ahead of their Friends Provident match against Middlesex and a phone call went out. Eight years after his last major game, Lewis came on second change, but it didn't quite go to plan. Six overs cost 51 runs, although a sprightly 33 suggested that with a little more time it may not be a fruitless return.
Hollioake was another player persuaded out of retirement by Twenty20 when Essex offered him a deal in 2007. His returns during the first two years of Twenty20 had been impressive: a strike-rate of 147.70 alongside 36 wickets in 14 matches. Hollioake's appearance in beach cricket in Australia during the preceding winter was enough for Graham Gooch, the Essex coach, to decide Hollioake was worth another go. However, while his passion and desire were still evident, the second coming was a disappointment as eight matches brought only 49 runs and four wickets.
After a 19-year career with Hampshire it had all appeared to have come to an end for Udal when he announced his retirement after the 2007 season. "I wanted to go out on a high as a decent player, instead of being a player who did not deserve his place on the staff," he said at the time. He was ready to play some club cricket for Berkshire and regale them with stories of his Test match-winning 4 for 14 in Mumbai. However, before the year was out an offer came along from Middlesex, who had lost Jamie Dalrymple to Glamorgan, and Udal signed a two-year deal. "Retirement, in hindsight, was the wrong choice for me, and due to John Emburey and Middlesex's persistence, I've been given a great chance to continue doing something I love and prove to people that I am still one of the best at what I do," he said.
Eighteen months ago Hair seemed to have as much chance of umpiring another Test match as he had of being appointed Australia's ambassador to Pakistan. The farcical end to the England-Pakistan Test at the Oval in 2006 led to Percy Sonn, the ICC president then, declaring, "He shall not be allowed to officiate in any future international games until the end of this contract." Hair was sent to umpire a handful of ODIs featuring Associates in cricketing strongholds such as Toronto and Belfast, and his relationship with the game's governing body soured even more when he sued the ICC for racial discrimination, based on the fact that his West Indian colleague Billy Doctrove had not been punished despite also having officiated in the Oval Test. However, Hair withdrew the charges, completed a rehabilitation period and was appointed to stand in this month's England-New Zealand Test at Old Trafford, nearly two years after he appeared to be finished.
Andrew McGlashan and Brydon Coverdale are staff writers at CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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