November 21, 2011

One and done

Players who only got to play a Test apiece for Australia

Stuart Law
Is he the unluckiest of all the world's one-Test wonders? Law made more than 27,000 runs in first-class cricket at an average of more than 50, including 79 hundreds... but played just the one Test, against Sri Lanka in Perth in 1995-96, scoring 54 not out. Despite a decent run in the one-day side, he never pulled on the baggy green again - it seems that his face just didn't fit in the Waugh era. Australia's other debutant in that Perth game had a rather longer career: Ricky Ponting is currently playing his 156th Test match.

Bryce McGain
They say that everything comes to those who wait... and the Victorian legspinner McGain waited rather longer than most. He was 36 when he won his first Test cap, against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2009. But the batsmen refused to let him settle, biffing eight sixes in all as he returned the sorry-looking figures of 0 for 149 from 18 overs. He never got another sniff of a cap, and recently criticised coach Tim Nielsen for not making him feel part of the dressing room.

Arthur Coningham
Pace bowler Coningham took a wicket with his first ball in a Test - Archie MacLaren with the first delivery of the second Ashes Test in Melbourne in December 1894 - but he struck only once more, and never played again. Still, Coningham packed a lot else into his life: on tour in England in 1893 he supposedly lit a fire in the outfield during one match to keep warm, and he also saved a child from drowning. Later in life he became embroiled in a scandalous divorce case in which he accused a priest of having an affair with his wife.

Pud Thurlow
Fast bowler Hugh "Pud" Thurlow produced some decent figures for Queensland at a time when they were the rather poor relations of Australian cricket, but his one and only Test appearance - against South Africa in Adelaide in 1931-32 - did not bring him a wicket. Then, batting at No. 11, he failed to make his ground after being called through for a quick single. This wouldn't have mattered much... if the batsman doing the calling hadn't been Don Bradman, who was on 299 at the time. Thurlow's dismissal meant the Don was stranded one short of another triple-century.

Ken Eastwood
When Bill Lawry was sacked as Australia's captain towards the end of the 1970-71 Ashes series, most people expected him to be kept on as a player, but the selectors went the whole hog and dropped him. Lawry's replacement was as like-for-like as you could get - another Victorian left-hander. But although Eastwood had been in fine form that season, at 35 he was even older than Lawry, and struggled in the final Test in Sydney, where Australia surrendered the Ashes. Eastwood made 5 in the first innings, and was bowled for a duck by John Snow in the second - and never played for Australia again, even though he had scored 177 in the innings immediately before his Test appearance, and 221 in his first one after it.

Roy Park
When Charlie Macartney went down with gastritis shortly before the second Ashes Test of 1920-21 in Melbourne, his replacement was a local doctor, Park. With the "Governor-General" likely to make a rapid return, Park needed to make an instant mark - but instead, batting at No. 3 on New Year's Eve, he was bowled by his first ball, from England's Harry Howell. It was his only chance, as Australia won by an innings, and Park never played again. Legend has it that Park's wife was sitting in the stands when he came in, but dropped her knitting at the vital moment as he prepared to receive the fateful first ball. She bent down to pick it up... and missed her husband's entire Test career.

Mick Malone
Western Australia fast-medium bowler Malone played only one official Test - the last one of the 1977 Ashes series at The Oval - before signing for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. He was a back number when peace broke out a couple of years later - but he had made the most of his debut, wheeling down 43 overs on the first day (his only break was two overs around lunchtime) and finishing with 5 for 63 from 47 overs. Then, though not considered much of a batsman, he made 46 in an unlikely century stand with Max Walker.

Sam Morris
The Victoria allrounder Morris holds a special place in Australia's Test history, as the first black man to play for them. A groundsman at St Kilda in Melbourne, Morris - whose parents are believed to have emigrated from the West Indies - was drafted in for the second Test against England at the MCG in January 1885, one of 11 replacements after the entire team from the first match refused to play after a pay dispute. Morris made 4 and 10 not out and took a couple of wickets, but his makeshift side lost by 10 wickets, and he was one of the casualties when the first-choice players made their peace.

John Watkins
A legspinner from up-country New South Wales, Watkins had played only a handful of matches when he was pitchforked into the Australian side for the final Test against Pakistan in Sydney in 1972-73. His bowling was unimpressive, but an important 36 with the bat helped Australia to a narrow victory. That earned Watkins a tour to the West Indies, where Keith Stackpole remembered that in one of the tour games "he almost hit the square-leg umpire with the widest full-toss I've seen". Watkins - rated by Stackpole as "possibly the luckiest player ever to represent Australia" - never played first-class cricket again after the tour.

George Thoms
Thoms, another Melbourne doctor, played his only Test in the final match against West Indies in Sydney in 1951-52, when his fellow debutants were Richie Benaud and Colin McDonald. Thoms and McDonald also opened for the University club in Melbourne, and they duly went in first for Australia at the SCG too. Their selection ahead of two New South Welshmen enraged a local Sydney reporter, who wrote that "Stodge and Splodge will open the innings for Australia". McDonald observed later, "We never did find out who was Stodge and who was Splodge." Thoms retired after that season, and became one of Australia's foremost gynaecologists.

Roley Pope
Another doctor, although this time from Sydney, Pope accompanied several Australian tours to England as a sort of general factotum. He also played a few matches for New South Wales, and was on the scene when the pay dispute which gave Sam Morris his only cap (see above) decimated the team against England in 1884-85. Pope won his only cap in that second Test in Melbourne, scoring 0 and 3 and not bowling, and returned to his more familiar cheerleader role for the rest of the series.

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