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Players whose first-class or international careers weren't quite run of the mill
May 21, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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, 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."
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.
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.Feeds: Steven Lynch
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