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