November 7, 2011

The one and only

England players who managed to win just a single Test cap (and one who got two)

Fred Grace
WG's younger brother GF - known as Fred - is probably the unluckiest of all the one-cap wonders: he never got a chance to play another Test as he died of pneumonia (he is thought to have caught it after sleeping on a bed with damp sheets) a fortnight after his debut against Australia at The Oval in 1880. Fred bagged a four-ball pair in his only Test, but did take a famous boundary catch to dismiss the noted Aussie hitter George Bonnor, who was reputedly completing his third run when the ball finally nestled in the nervous Grace's hands.

Jack MacBryan
The Somerset amateur batsman MacBryan made his debut in the fourth Test against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1924, but the match was ruined by rain. Only about half a day's play was possible, and MacBryan had no chance to do anything. Even so, he was left out for the final Test at The Oval (Jack Hobbs, rested at Manchester, returned in front of his home crowd), and he never won another cap. MacBryan - who had won an Olympic gold medal for hockey in 1920 - remains the only player from anywhere to play Test cricket but not bat, bowl or make a catch or a stumping.

John Stephenson
The Essex allrounder was one of the cast of thousands (well, 29 actually) called up by England during another calamitous Ashes series, at home to Australia in 1989. In the sixth Test at The Oval Stephenson opened the batting with his celebrated Essex team-mate Graham Gooch, and actually outscored him in both innings (25 to 0 in the first, 11 to 10 in the second), as England managed a draw that kept the scoreline down to a 4-0 defeat. But it wasn't enough to earn Stephenson another Test. He later set up an England "one-cap wonders" club, complete with a tie that he still sometimes wears during his duties as MCC's head of cricket at Lord's.

Father Marriott
Charles "Father" Marriott could hardly have done more on his Test debut: a legspinner, he took 5 for 37 and 6 for 59 as England beat West Indies by an innings at The Oval in 1933. But Marriott never played another Test: already 37, he was a schoolteacher, which limited his availability, and he had a quiet time in India in 1933-34, taking only 32 wickets on the tour (Hedley Verity managed 78) and not featuring in the three Tests there.

Charlie Parker
The Gloucestershire slow left-armer Parker took 3278 wickets in first-class cricket at an average of less than 20, most of them for Gloucestershire. That included 222 in 1925, and he passed 200 on four other occasions. But Parker's only England cap came during the 1921 Ashes series, when he was called up for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, by which time England were already 3-0 down. He took two wickets in a rain-affected draw but never played again, although he came close a couple of times, being left out of the final XI on the first morning. A fiery character, Parker did himself no favours by once becoming embroiled in a heated argument in a lift with Sir Pelham Warner, a Test selector at the time, during which he accused Plum of holding back his Test career.

Mandy Mitchell-Innes
Norman Mitchell-Innes was a stylish amateur batsman for Somerset, although he was still at Oxford University when he was called up for the first Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge in 1935. "Mandy" made only 5 in a rain-affected draw but was all set to have another go in the second Test at Lord's... until he suffered a bad attack of hay fever and told the selectors he'd better not play in case he sneezed and dropped a catch. The selectors never came calling again - possibly because Mitchell-Innes decided he'd recovered enough to play across town for Oxford University at The Oval, and scored a century against Surrey.

Darren Pattinson
One of the most extraordinary selections in recent years saw fast bowler Pattinson, who had played only six first-class matches in England, pitchforked into the Test side against South Africaat Headingley in 2008, ahead of the centrally contracted local man Matthew Hoggard. The main problem was that Pattinson, though born in Grimsby, had grown up in Australia and was, to all intents and purposes, an Aussie: one writer had a theory that he'd been chosen for England to stop Australia picking him for the following year's Ashes series. But others weren't so sure: "Surely the Poms have got better bowlers than Patto?" said an incredulous club mate at Dandenong, his Melbourne club. Michael Vaughan, England's captain, admitted the selection had destabilised the side - and, despite bowling respectably in the match, Pattinson has never been called up again. Darren's younger brother James might have a longer international career: he has already played one-day internationals for Australia.

Aubrey Smith
Smith - a fastish bowler known as "Round the Corner" because of a peculiar approach to the stumps - captained England in what became recognised as their first Test match in South Africa, and took seven wickets in a straightforward victory. But he never played for England again, becoming rather more famous as a British character actor, specialising in military types, in scores of Hollywood movies. When, as an old man, he paid a visit to Lord's, an MCC member nudged his neighbour and said, "That chap looks familiar." Ignoring The Prisoner of Zenda, arguably Sir Aubrey's most memorable film, the other member sniffed and said, "Chap called Smith. Used to play for Sussex."

Andy Lloyd
The Warwickshire opener Lloyd's Test career was one of the briefest on record: half an hour into his debut, against West Indies on his home ground at Edgbaston in 1984, Lloyd ducked into a short one from Malcolm Marshall, and was taken to hospital with blurred vision. His eyesight was permanently impaired, and he never played for England again, although he did carry on bravely for Warwickshire. Lloyd remains the only Test opener never to be dismissed in his career.

Charlie Absolom
Absolom came in to bat on his Test debut, in Melbourne in 1878-79, with England 26 for 7 - and made a plucky 52. But this was the only Test match for a handy allrounder who took 282 first-class wickets at less than 20 apiece: he went to sea shortly after this tour, and never played again. In 1889 he came to an untimely end when a crate (said to be either carrying sugar - which would indeed have been a sticky end - or bananas) being unloaded from his ship fell on him.

Alan Jones
The consistent Glamorgan left-hand opener Jones made more than 36,000 runs in first-class cricket, and was often spoken of as a Test prospect. But he was doubly unfortunate when he eventually got the call: first he ran into Mike Procter, one of the fastest bowlers around at the time, on a helpful Lord's pitch - Jones was caught behind for 5 and 0, and was never selected again - and furthermore the opposition was not a regular Test side but the Rest of the World XI, hastily assembled after the proposed South African tour of 1970 was cancelled. The matches, though given all the trappings of Tests (and recorded as such in Wisden for several years), were eventually deemed unofficial, and performances in them removed from the records. But although Jones might be said actually to be a no-cap wonder, the story goes that in fact he has two: he was supposedly given a couple to try out for size before his debut, and no one at Lord's ever asked for them back.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011.