We'll be back after this break

Successful Test returns from injuries, bans, exiles, and offending royal sensibilities

Steven Lynch

July 30, 2012

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Dennis Amiss is congratulated for his double-century by team-mate Alan Knott and bowler Michael Holding, England v West Indies, 5th Test, The Oval, 4th day, August 16, 1976
Dennis Amiss is congratulated by Alan Knott and Michael Holding for his double-century at The Oval, 1976 © PA Photos

Geoff Boycott
After three years of self-imposed exile, Boycott returned to England colours for the third Test of the 1977 Ashes series, at Trent Bridge. He made a hesitant start, being dropped early on in the slips and also running out the local hero, Derek Randall. But Boycott hung on for a century - his 99th in first-class cricket - and completed his 100th hundred in the next Test, in front of his home Headingley crowd, as England secured the series.

After no Test matches for almost six years, Zimbabwe nervously dipped a toe into the water a year ago this week... and ended up convincing winners over Bangladesh; new captain Brendan Taylor led the way with a century. Reality bit back when Pakistan won easily soon afterwards, but Zimbabwe nearly rounded off their comeback season with a victory over New Zealand.

Dennis Lillee
After bad stress fractures in the back jeopardised Lillee's career following the 1972-73 West Indian tour, he roared back two years later in a home Ashes series largely won thanks to his electrifying new-ball partnership with Jeff Thomson. Lillee had been widely written off before that, but he recovered well enough to take 304 more Test wickets after his unscheduled career break.

Dennis Amiss
The 1974-75 Ashes series that revived Lillee had the opposite effect on Amiss, bringing a prolific run with the bat to an abrupt halt. Two more Tests at home against the Aussies in 1975 produced only 19 more runs, and Amiss was dropped, seemingly for ever... but, as the West Indians ran England ragged the following summer, Amiss returned for the final Test, at The Oval. Unveiling a new technique that involved an exaggerated step back and across his crease, he kept 14-wicket Michael Holding out until he had compiled a gritty 203.

Imran Khan
Khan retired after the 1987 World Cup, but was tempted back for a tilt at West Indies - the leading team at the time - by a personal plea from Pakistan's president. And Imran stayed around until the 1992 World Cup, when he took England's last wicket to clinch the final in front of a huge Melbourne crowd. Pakistan's own comeback in that tournament - in which they only survived to the later stages after a match they were about to lose was rained out - is almost worthy of inclusion here too.

Bob Simpson
Simpson emerged from a ten-year retirement to captain an Australian team ravaged by defections to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Nearing 40, Simmo recaptured something like his old form, scoring two centuries in an exciting home series against India, before bowing out for the second time after a tough tour of the West Indies. He later had a successful stint as Australia's coach.

Ian Botham
After copping a ban for smoking pot, Botham returned to Test action against New Zealand at The Oval in 1986. His first ball back found Bruce Edgar's edge and flew to slip, where Graham Gooch juggled the hot potato but eventually held on. "Who writes your scripts?" enquired a relieved Gooch as he congratulated the returning hero.

George Carew
The Barbados opener Carew made a duck on his Test debut, at home in Bridgetown in 1934-35, and was marooned on zero Test runs for more than 13 years. Recalled to play England in Port-of-Spain in February 1948, he strolled in wearing a brown felt hat and stroked 107, making the lion's share of an opening stand of 173 with the debutant Andy Ganteaume, who made 112. Carew won a place on the Indian tour that followed; Ganteaume didn't (and never did play another Test).

Lala Amarnath
Amarnath scored India's first Test century, against England in Bombay (now Mumbai) in December 1933, but after that series it was more than a dozen years before he played another Test. There were reasons for that: Amarnath was sent home from the 1936 England tour for alleged insubordination against the autocratic captain, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram; then the war cost him several more seasons. But Lala was back in England in 1946, survived the captaincy of another prince (the senior Nawab of Pataudi), then took over as skipper himself. And while we're on the subject, naturally everyone will be hoping that Yuvraj Singh joins this list of successful comebacks shortly!

Collage of newspaper headlines about the controversy over Lala Amarnath being sent back from India's England tour of 1936 at the behest of Vizzy
Reports about Lala Amarnath being sent back from England in 1936 © Wisden Asia Cricket

Younis Ahmed
A combative left-hander, Younis played two Tests for Pakistan in 1969-70. Not long afterwards he picked up a "lifetime" ban for playing in apartheid Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe then was), and looked set to play out his career in county cricket. But in 1986-87, with the ban seemingly forgotten, Younis got the call from Imran Khan to bolster Pakistan's middle order for a close-fought series against India: 17 years after those first two caps, Younis won two more. He might have added to his collection, except Imran was unamused when Younis left the field with a back problem, and was later discovered trying to work off the injury in the hotel disco.

Don Bradman
After a modest Test debut, Bradman was dropped for the second Test of the 1928-29 Ashes series, in Sydney: it was the only time he was ever dropped from any team, anywhere. He still had to field for most of the match, as Bill Ponsford's hand was broken early on by Harold Larwood, but there is a famous picture of the Don carrying the drinks. With Ponsford absent, Bradman returned for the third Test, in Melbourne, scored 79 and 112, and the legend was well and truly launched.

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

RSS Feeds: Steven Lynch

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 9:18 GMT)

How could you forget John Traicos?? He had a gap of 22 years and 222 days between his 3rd and 4th tests, a record for the longest gap between appearances. He played his first 3 tests for South Africa against Australia in the famous series in 69/70 when SA whitewashed Australia 4-0 in their last series before the Apartheid ban. Nearly 23 years later he turned out for Zimbabwe in their inaugural test against India in 1992 and captured 5 wickets which included the scalps of Kapil Dev and a certain Sachin Tendulkar for a grand score of 0 ! If that story is not worthy of a mention in this list of successful comebacks, I don't know what is !!

Posted by landl47 on (July 31, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

How about George Gunn of Notts and England, who played 11 tests between 1907 and 1912, then was dropped for 18 years! He came back in 1930, aged 50, and played in 4 tests in the West Indies, in the last of which he scored 85 and 47. He was an immensely talented player, but just didn't have the temperament for test cricket. He got bored too easily and gave his wicket away trying trick shots. He was, by all contemporary accounts, extremely entertaining to watch, though I guess frustrating for supporters of his team.

Posted by zsn on (July 31, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

@Venkatb: I remember that incident very well - it was the first ever Test match I saw (I was 9 years old) and we were about half-way up the A-stand right behind where Roger Tolchard (12th man) held that catch. My dad still believes he stepped on the boundary line, as he took that catch - I couldn't see very well as everyone around me was standing up! My next Test was the one where Pataudi was captain, and India beat WI by 100 runs, in 4 days.

Posted by reeja on (July 31, 2012, 15:07 GMT)

where is shane bond... who came back after two years break...

Posted by cantexplain on (July 31, 2012, 3:07 GMT)

Imran had another, more difficult, comeback when he returned in '85 after missing 18 months of test cricket due to his shin injury.

Posted by Baddabing on (July 31, 2012, 2:55 GMT)

I might add Terry Alderman who returned from a 5 year ban for a rebel tour to SA to bowl Australia to victory in the 1989 Ashes with 41 wickets

Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 23:19 GMT)

Norman Gifford captained England in his mid 40's - his first game for his country for 11 years. Henry Blofeld - the plum accented radio commentator (who had only played previously first class for Cambridge University and that was 6 years earler) was named in an England 11 to play India. He was only left out of the final 11 exchanged at the toss when Mickey Stewart discharged himself from hospital (still very ill). Worcestershire did not have 6 batsmen capable of taking the field in the very first day of T20 at New Road in 2003. Tom Moody called on local club cricketer David Taylor. Who smashed 46 from 20 balls (mostly off a very quick and fired up Andre Nel) in the first game, and didn't score more than 10 again. His Worcs career is not even listed in cricinfo stats as he had no contract

Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 21:25 GMT)

Lara past his sabbatical in 2001 against Sri Lanka?

Posted by Venkatb on (July 30, 2012, 18:45 GMT)

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi - last played against the Aussies in 69-70, missed 2 triumphant tours thanks to Vijay Merchant as selector, and returned in the Madras Test against England in January 1973 - and boy was that a welcome sign, scoring 73 before falling to a catch on the long-on boundary when the crowd thought it was his fifth six of the innings!

Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

King of comebacks - Sourav Ganguly?? After his spat with Greg Chappel, being dropped after his 1992 season and then coming back in 1996? Where's all that?

Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 15:30 GMT)

what about mohammed nazir took 7- 99 on his debut against new zealand 69/70 , last test against england in 72/73 , then returned against the west indies 79/80 taking 8 - 120 , then dropped and returned again 83/84 against india taking 7-122

Posted by Stark62 on (July 30, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

I thought this article was created as a result of Gayle's magnificent comeback?!?!

Posted by geawan on (July 30, 2012, 14:07 GMT)

Lara? Resigned in 1995 and returned to have a monumental career

Posted by spardak on (July 30, 2012, 13:34 GMT)


Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

Zimb is here, and not South Africa?!

Posted by cloudmess on (July 30, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

Jonathan_E mentions Martin Bicknell and I remember his unlikely comeback against SA in 2003. I think he was already 34 there. He should at least have been picked from 1999 as a like-for-like replacement for Angus Fraser. He worked very hard and had beautiful control. I remember his dismissal of Jacques Rudolph in the Oval Test of 2003, firstly beating him with two outswingers. On commentary, Barry Richards was saying "'e'll bowl 'im the inswinger now... if 'e's smirt!", which is exactly what Bicknell did, clean-bowling the batsman. Bicknell could bat a bit too, making 50s and 100s for Surrey, especially in the latter part of his career.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (July 30, 2012, 12:09 GMT)

@Jonathan_E: your mention of Martin Bicknell put me in mind of another famous Surrey Test player of an earlier era: the much missed Kenny Barrington. He (you may know) made his debut in the first Test v SA at Trent Bridge in 1955 (scored 0!) got another chance in the Lord's Test (34 & 18) - and then was ignored by the selectors until 1959 - an interval of 30 Tests, replacing Graveney after the disastrous Ashes' campaign of '58-9. Graveney himself wasn't seen in an England cap again until the 1st Test v Pakistan in '62 (an interval of 28 Tests!) - the first Test in which both players were selected. Now, would you have KP & Bell at #4 & #5 or would you prefer Tom & Kenny? I know which pair I'd prefer to bat for my life.

Posted by roarster on (July 30, 2012, 11:42 GMT)

Yeah I'm forever wondering why Tendulkar never gets a mention on these forums!

What about the claims of the avuncular Eddie Hemmings (the Notts offspinner rather than the rugby league shouter)? Having had to wait until well into his 34th year to make his test debut he had a brief trot before being rather harshly jettisoned after taking 6 scalps and knocking off 124 in his 5th match (SCG). A mere 5 years further down the line he was back in the fray and hung around until he was touching 42 (age and waistband). If nothing else (and he did have his moments) Eddie's revival at least served to remind us what a clean striker of the ball Kapil Dev could be!

Posted by coolindianfan on (July 30, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

@albert "he misused the DRS to COMEBACK and make a shameful 80" if the technology says he is not out,that means it should have the final say .how can he misuse it .what is shamefu in comingg back. If making 80 is shameless i dont find any way India could have won the match without it.ON a mohali pitch against a strong pakistan bowling attack If that is shamefull so its a shame on each and every 21 batsmen who played that match

Posted by AlbertEinstein on (July 30, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

Why didn't they mention Tendulya......he was given out by the umpire in the semi final against Pakistan and he misused the DRS to COMEBACK and make a shameful 80

Posted by MrGarreth on (July 30, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

If youre going to put Zimbabwe in there howcome you dont put SA in too who had a 20 year break from international cricket?

Posted by Abhijeet92 on (July 30, 2012, 7:24 GMT)

I'm appalled to know that the King of Comeback aka Sourav Ganguly didnt get mention..He was out from Indian Team for nearly 1.5 to 2 years and when he got selected (Thanx to Mr.Dilip Vengsarkar) to play an away series against Proteas in 2007,he returned home as the Highest Series Scorer for India..Even in his first ODI after the exile against Windies,he scored 98 runs..And was even accoladed MOS against Sri Lanka which followed..So he definitely deserved to be mentioned in this elite List !

Posted by Meety on (July 30, 2012, 7:00 GMT)

@Rohit Gopalan - yeah, I'd say Warney had 2 comebacks, the shoulder injury & the drug ban.

Posted by george204 on (July 30, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

Sorry to be pedantic, but I think you'll find that Boycott's Trent Bridge century was actually his 98th. He made his 99th for Yorkshire in a championship match between the two tests, then the famous 100th in his home test.

Posted by Romanticstud on (July 30, 2012, 6:04 GMT)

What about Hashim Amla ... he performed poorly at home against England and was dropped ... He is now a regular in the South AFrican side ...

Posted by Jonathan_E on (July 30, 2012, 5:18 GMT)

Martin Bicknell. Picked in 1993, played 2 tests, then was dropped - amid a complete change of bowling attack in which Fraser and Malcolm both returned from long-term injury (they were always going to return to the team): but Bicknell, with a decent 3/99, possibly deserved to have kept the place he lost to Steve Watkin (himself on a "comeback" of sorts, but he took 6 wickets in the match.)

Bicknell was then incredibly unlucky not to be selected again for 10 years (neither was Watkin), as England tried almost everybody else but him, with only Gough, Caddick and Cork enjoying any regularity in the team, and all three seldom fit at once. But he came back right near the end of his career for 2 tests in the 2003 series against South Africa... and took a wicket in his first over, four in the match (which England lost), and then followed it up with six in the next match (which England won). And was promptly dropped again, this time for good.

Posted by   on (July 30, 2012, 3:07 GMT)

Shane Warne? Didn't he have a successful comeback in Sri Lanka 2003-04? He got 26 wickets on that tour including his 500th Test Wicket. He came back from a one-year drugs ban quite successfully!

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
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.

Walking up the down escalator

2014 in review: Player strikes, defeats against fellow minnows, and mountains of debt for the board marked another grim year for Zimbabwe

    The first Boxing Day classic

Ashley Mallett: Nearly 150 years ago, the MCG saw the start of a much-loved tradition, with a match starring Aboriginal players

Hangovers and headaches

2014 in review: Embarrassing defeats, a beleaguered captain, a bitter former star, alienating administrators - England's year was gloomy. By George Dobell

Ten years later

Gallery: Efforts by Surrey have helped transform a coastal village in Sri Lanka devastated by the December 26 tsunami

Going for glory and falling just short

Anantha Narayanan: An anecdotal account of close finishes similar to the recent Adelaide Test

News | Features Last 7 days

Watson's merry-go-round decade

In January 2005, Shane Watson made his Test debut. What does he have to show for a decade in the game?

Power to Smithy, trouble for Dhoni

Australia's new captain admirably turned things around for his side in Brisbane, leading in more departments than one

Why punish the West Indies players when the administration is to blame?

As ever, the West Indies board has taken the short-term view and removed supposedly troublesome players instead of recognising its own incompetence

Gilchrist's conscientious moment

In the semi-final against Sri Lanka in 2003, Adam Gilchrist walked back to the pavilion despite being given not out by the on-field umpire

Australia's 50-50 lifelines

Three Australia players made half-centuries on day one at the MCG; for each of them, the innings' meant different things

News | Features Last 7 days