Strange appearances

Players whose first-class or international careers weren't quite run of the mill

Steven Lynch

May 21, 2012

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Mike Smith batting in 1964
Mike Smith: retired in 1967 but played the Ashes in 1972 © Playfair Cricket Monthly
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The Rev RH Moss
The Reverend Reginald Moss had an unremarkable time as a fast-medium bowler for Oxford University, starting in 1887, and seemed to have faded out of first-class cricket after failing to take a wicket for Liverpool & District against the 1893 Australian tourists. But, remarkably, he was called up for his County Championship debut no fewer than 32 years later, when he was 57. By then the rector at Icomb, in Stow-on-the-Wold, he played for Worcestershire against Gloucestershire in May 1925, taking two catches and a wicket.

Sunil Valson
Who never appeared in a single one-day international, yet has a World Cup winners' medal as a player? It's a great quiz question, and the answer is the Delhi left-arm medium-pacer Sunil Valson, who was a member of the victorious Indian squad in 1983 but didn't play in the tournament - or, indeed, in any one-day international, ever.

Percy Herbert
When the idiosyncratic Percy Fender discovered that his Gentlemen of the South side was one short against Players of the South at The Oval in 1920, he asked his uncle - a handy club player - to fill in. The other Percy duly arrived on the second morning - only for it to rain solidly for two days, so he never saw a ball bowled in his only first-class match. Herbert is not alone: Keith Walmsley's entertaining recent book Brief Candles, about those who made just one first-class appearance, lists a dozen people who never set foot on the field of play, and a couple of them (in addition to Herbert) were probably not at the ground for any of the play possible.

Ian Watson
A batsman from Teddington, Ian Watson was on the MCC and Middlesex staffs in the late 1960s. He made his first-class debut for Middlesex against Oxford University in 1969, making 15 and 0 not out. He then appeared for Northamptonshire in 1971, again in the Parks, scoring 16 in an innings victory. And two years later he played for Hampshire against the West Indian tourists at the old county ground in Southampton, managing only 5 and 1 while opening with Gordon Greenidge.

MJK Smith
Not many people play in an Ashes Test after they have retired... but Mike Smith did. A prolific batsman who captained England on their 1965-66 tour Down Under, the bespectacled MJK quit county cricket after the 1967 season, aged only 34. But he returned in 1970, seemingly as good as ever, and forced his way back into the England side when the Australians arrived two years later, by which time he was almost 39. He played in the first three Tests and, although he didn't disgrace himself and fielded smartly, he didn't get past 34 and was left out again. He retired for good three years later.

George Gunn
George Gunn had a long career as a Nottinghamshire opener with a penchant for strolling down the pitch, whatever the speed of the bowler. He played 11 Tests before the First World War, scoring a century against Australia in the first of them, in Sydney in 1907-08. But after 1912, Gunn didn't play for England for nearly 18 years, before opening in the West Indies in 1929-30, when he was 50. He might have played more often, though: the story goes that when he reported for duty at Trent Bridge at the start of one season, he found an unopened letter in his blazer pocket from the previous summer. It was from MCC, inviting Gunn to be part of England's team on their winter tour.

Jack Badcock
As lop-sided Test careers go, that of the Tasmanian Clayvel "Jack" Badcock probably takes the biscuit: he scored 118 to set up an innings victory for Australia in the Ashes decider in Melbourne in 1936-37... but in 11 other innings, all of them against England, he failed to reach double figures. Badcock, who once made a triple-century in a Sheffield Shield match, finished with a Test batting average of 14.54.


George Gunn
George Gunn: not much of a mail reader © The Cricketer International
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Phil North
Slow left-armer Phil North played 22 matches for Glamorgan in the late 1980s, with modest success, and his first-class career seemed to have ended in 1989. But he remained a consistent wicket-taker in club and Minor Counties cricket, and was rewarded with a recall to first-class cricket eight years later, against Nottinghamshire. But he was late arriving at the ground - he said his wake-up call did not come through - and was dropped. No more calls from Glamorgan came through, either.

Phil Mead
Phil Mead, the prolific Hampshire left-hander, made two Ashes tours of Australia - in 1911-12, and again in 1928-29, as a veteran of 41. Legend has it that he was approached during the second trip by an elderly gentleman who greeted him by saying "I remember your father playing here before the Great War."

Denis Streak
The father of Zimbabwe's leading Test wicket-taker Heath Streak, Denis was also a fast-medium bowler. He seemed to have finished in first-class cricket after a Zimbabwean tour of England in 1985. But ten years later Streak senior, by then nearly 47, was on hand when Matabeleland somehow found themselves one short for the Logan Cup final against Mashonaland Country Districts in Bulawayo. Playing alongside his son, Denis bowled five overs and scored 3 - but his side won, mainly thanks to their captain, Wayne James, who made 13 dismissals behind the stumps and scored 99 and 99 not out.

Stuart Moffat
Better known as a professional rugby player, who won four international caps for his native Scotland, Stuart Moffat was also a fine cricketer. He made his sole first-class appearance in the 2002 Varsity Match, while at Cambridge University... and scored 169 in his one and only innings, leaving him with an impressive first-class average. He then left the university, and never played at such a level again: he remains one of eight people to score a century in their only first-class match. The highest scorer in this elite list is Norman Callaway, who made 207 for New South Wales against Queensland in 1914-15... and then went off to war and never returned.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.

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Posted by   on (May 23, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

28 years ago in the 1984/85 'Rothmans Four-Nations Cup' contest. Gower was being rested so Norman Gifford came straight into the side... as captain aged 44.

Posted by Baddabing on (May 23, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

I just gotta mention a spinner called Johnny Watkins who was a surprise selection for a Test match Australia V Pakistan in 1972 after only a couple of first-class appearances, his brief wicketless appearance at the bowling crease produced only laughter and ridicule, he did not bowl again in the match but when Australia appeared to be heading for certain defeat Watkins scored a heroic tail-end innings of 36 to give Australia a narrow win, he scored more runs in that one innings than he got in the rest of his first-class career but disappeared into oblivion quickly after that, I wonder what happened to him?

Posted by landl47 on (May 22, 2012, 2:42 GMT)

Back in the 1960s, a team-mate of mine in my school team was a promising young cricketer. He eventually played in a single List A match in 1990, aged 39, scored 46 and took one wicket for 52. Nothing particularly remarkable in that, you might say, and you'd be right- except for his name. It was Stephen Lynch.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

Harold Gimblett, as history records, had just been dismissed after a trial for Somerset on the grounds that he was not good enough, when he was hastily called up since the county were a man short and Gimblett at least had the virtue of being eligible and a good enough fielder not to disgrace them. He hitch-hiked part of the way to the county ground, was put at 8 in the batting order by a kindly captain who figured the lad at least deserved more of a chance than batting at 9-10-Jack, went in with the home side six down for not enough, and belted a debut hundred at about a run and a half a minute.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 15:08 GMT)

Its very amusing article! I would like to mention that Devraj Govindraj a medium fast bowler was selected for west indies tour in 1971 but, he didnot play any test and he was not included in Indian team thereafter. Talat Mirza of Pakistan was selected for Indian tour in 1983 but he was never heard again. Steven, I wish you could write an article on the debutant centurians in test cricket who failed to live up their glorious feat theareafter.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 11:24 GMT)

Namibian Wicketkeeper Melt Van Schoor played his last fast class and last list A match in 2004. He was again included in the squad in 2011 at the age of 44 for Africa T20 division 1 leading to the 2012 T20 world cup qualifier. He played alongside his son Raymond in that tournament.

Posted by Grutness on (May 21, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

New Zealander Greg Loveridge was another one with an unusual and unfortunate international career. He was brought into the test side as a bowler, but in his first test New Zealand batted first. He faced 22 deliveries, scoring one boundary and no other runs, Unfortunately, the 22nd delivery hit him on the hand, breaking a knuckle, and he retired hurt, taking no further part in what turned out to be his only test.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 21, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

Frank Hayes' test career bears a lot of similarity to Badcock's (one test century, no other scores): I think Hayes finished with the slightly higher test average of about 15.

Posted by keithwalmsley on (May 21, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

Thank you, Steven, for an interesting article, and for your kind words about 'Brief Candles'. If house rules permit, may I mention that those interested in finding out more about the lives and cricket of Percy Herbert and Stuart Moffat - and Fred Hyland too, as well as a dozen or so other 'one-match wonders' (including 'Test wonder' Emile McMaster) - will find those guys covered in some detail in this ACS-published book? Thank you.

Posted by imetpkd on (May 21, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

K P Bhaskar from Delhi was selected to play for India against NZ in one day match in 1988 only the match was washed out I beleive.

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Steven LynchClose
Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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