August 27, 2012

Born together, played together

Cricketing twins, some who confused the opposition, others who faced off against each other

The Waughs
It's difficult to talk twins, in cricket at least, without starting with the Waughs - over 35,000 international runs and 73 hundreds between them, not to mention more than 400 wickets too. Steve started in international cricket first, then was famously dropped to allow Mark to make his debut. He was soon back, though, and both remained automatic choices for almost a decade. After sharing a womb, they shared a room for years too - but still ended up as very different personalities. And that background set up one of Test cricket's best one-liners, when Mark Waugh poked fun at the England newcomer Jimmy Ormond at The Oval in 2001. Informed that there was no way he was a good enough player for Test cricket, Ormond replied: "Maybe not - but at least I'm the best player in my family."

The Bedsers ...
Certainly England's best-known sporting twins, the strongly built Bedsers churned out runs and, especially, wickets for Surrey for more than 15 years after the Second World War, including the period when they won a record seven successive Championship titles. The story goes that they tossed a coin to decide which one would remain a quick bowler and which would try spin: Alec won, and became the cornerstone of England's pace attack for the best part of a decade, while Eric's offbreaks were confined to county cricket. They remained inseparable, though, into their late eighties.

... and the other Bedsers
When Mr and Mrs Bedser of East London in South Africa produced twin boys in May 1948 it probably seemed like a good idea to call them Alec (established as an England star by then) and Eric (a considerable presence in county cricket). But even the proud parents must have been surprised when the new twins followed their namesakes in becoming fine cricketers: Alec played for Border in South Africa's Currie Cup, and Eric came close. Sadly, the younger Alec Bedser died in a road accident not long after his 33rd birthday.

A Signal honour
The first twins to play together in a Test match were New Zealand's Signal sisters, Liz and Rose, who both toured England in 1984, and made their debuts together in the first Test at Headingley. Rose made 0 and 8 not out, and never played again, but Liz won five more caps. Later in that 1984 series, Jane Powell from Sheffield won her first cap for England: her twin, Jill, had played one Test five years earlier.

The Marshalls
Hamish and James Marshall from Auckland were the first identical twins to play together in a (men's) Test match, doing so against Australia at home at Eden Park in March 2005. Ricky Ponting admitted he had no idea how to tell them apart, but - although they did bat together in both innings - Ponting's task was helped by the fact that the twins used different makes of bat (and James sported a forearm guard). James has a strange record to his name, having scored 161 in what looks likely to be his last one-day international, against Ireland in 2008.

The Dentons ...
Billy and John Denton were born in Northamptonshire, and both played more than 100 matches for the county, often forming an effective opening partnership. Billy once scored 230 not out against Essex, after a first-wicket stand of 97 with his twin. A younger brother, Arthur, also played a few games for Northants.

... and the Rippons
Dudley and Sydney Rippon were born in Kensington, but played for Somerset, where they often opened the batting together. If that wasn't confusing enough, in one match in 1919 Sydney couldn't get time off work, but played anyway under an alias, borrowing his grandmother's name and appearing as "S Trimnell". The local paper tried its best to blow his cover, observing that "although his name is new, he is by no means a stranger to county cricket". And in the Championship match at Northampton in 1914 the Rippon twins went in first for Somerset, while the Dentons opened for Northants.

The Matambanadzos
The magnificently named Everton Zvikomberero Matambanadzo played three Tests for Zimbabwe as an opening bowler in the late 1990s, without much success. His twin Darlington never quite made the Test side, although he did play a fair bit for Mashonaland. Everton's first name brings to mind Jim Laker's comment on being told by Everton Weekes that his father had named him after the famous football club: "Good thing he didn't support West Bromwich Albion."

The Vareys
Darlington-born David (Cambridge) and Jonathan (Oxford) Varey opposed each other in the varsity matches of 1982 and 1983. In 1982 Jonathan dismissed his brother, but Cambridge won; the following year the match was drawn. David, though, was the one who played a few times for Lancashire, and scored a century for them - against Oxford University - in 1985.

The identical Taylors, born in Buckinghamshire, both had long county careers, Mike as a medium-paced allrounder for Nottinghamshire and Hampshire, and Derek behind the stumps for Surrey and Somerset. Twice - in a Championship match in 1970 and a Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final in 1974 - Derek caught his brother for a duck. It was appropriate that Derek ended up in Taunton, as the brothers' third forename is Somerset.

The Shevills
The first international twins of all were the Shevills, who both played for Australia in the inaugural women's Test series, against England in 1934-35. But they didn't quite appear together: Fernie, by then Mrs Blade, opened the bowling in the first match, and Irene kept wicket in the second and third Tests. Another sister, Essie Shevill, played in all three Tests as well.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Reynold on August 28, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    George and Elvis Reifer were a pair of twins who played for Barbados in the 90's.George was a middle order baysman and Elvis a quickish medium bowler who could bat a bit.Trinidad and Tobago also had Imran and Asif Jan who represented their country at junior level.

  • Ravin on August 28, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    Interesting Article. Nice work Steven @Robelgordo, another closet Sachin fan. How many of you are actually out there or ..... "in" there?

  • Robert on August 27, 2012, 20:32 GMT

    Cricinfo readers failing their comprehension skills again. The comments every week on the XI make me cringe. Most complaints are from people not understanding the topic. And those that aren't... we have Mr. Lynch giving us obscure and interesting references, and people usually want obvious inclusions everyone has read about eleventy billion times. I hope he doesn't read the comments, in his shoes I'd probably resign due to the collective stupidity of my readership. One good thing this week - Tendulkar didn't have a twin (or brother). Because I'm sick of people wanting to hear about Sachin again.

  • Ravi on August 27, 2012, 17:13 GMT

    @anilkp, This article is about Identical Twins and not Siblings playing together..

  • Anil on August 27, 2012, 16:34 GMT

    Vamsee Mahendrakar wrote "How come the writer forgot the flower brothers?? strange". Many others have also raised the questions on the Pathans, Amarnaths etc. I would like to draw attention to the writer of this column, Steven Lynch. Steven is a highly educated expert of cricket and the game's history, statistics and evolution. It is for nothing that he has been at the helm of the game's historical aspects at Cricinfo. When you find something "strange" about his article, remind yourself that Steven is far more informed and knowledgible than you are--as far as cricket goes. So, this first response from you should be to check the article again and to think over it; write a response only if you have analyzed it satisfactorily well.

  • John on August 27, 2012, 16:28 GMT

    Being a Devon lad and a Somerset fan I feel duty bound to mention the Overton brothers , both of who play for the under 19s and had promising debut seasons at Somerset. Obviously way too early to see how far they go though. I do like the comms about brothers who aren't twins , especially those laughing at the author for not mentioning them. What about Tendulkar?

  • John on August 27, 2012, 13:34 GMT

    Another famous Bedser story is when Eric was out and Alec subsequently came to the wicket. The umpire is alleged to have said "There are no second chances in this game" and Eric had to be fetached to show that they weren't the same person. It must have been very early in their careers, because the Bedser twins were very well known in later years.

  • Munaf on August 27, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    All twins can be brothers but all brothers cannot be twins. Infact all twins also cannot be brothers.So article is about twins not brothers

  • Jonathan on August 27, 2012, 11:27 GMT

    Apparently there was once a match in which Alec Bedser began an over, bowled three balls at his fast-military-medium pace, then the twins switched places and Eric bowled the remaining three balls of offspin, and the batsman failed to tell the difference except for noting that the bowler had a remarkable change of pace...

    Eric's record as a player makes him appear very unlucky not to have played a Test, what with averaging under 25 with the ball and just over 24 with the bat, including a few centuries: unfortunately he was competing with Jim Laker, with an even better bowling record, for the off-spinner's position both for Surrey and England, and there was Tony Lock as yet another spinner in both sides (in fact Eric had to improve his batting even to stay in his county team if there wasn't a Test on, and was nearly an all-rounder as a result.)

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    There's been a whole load more: Adnan & Arfan Akram. The Parsons, Riefers, McBrines, de Bruyns, Ata & Zia-ur-Rehman, Asif & Imran Jan, Aruna and Udaya Hettiarachchi, Dale Benkenstein's brothers - Brett and Boyd. It's amazing how many have played senior cricket.

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