September 10, 2012

Going out with a bang

Players who ended their international careers in style

Seymour Nurse
Nurse, the big Barbadian, had announced his retirement before the final Test in New Zealand early in 1969. He'd warmed up for his Christchurch curtain call with 168 in the first Test, and now powered to 258, his highest Test score. Wisden observed: "In very poor light, he punished the New Zealand pace bowlers with superb drives off the back foot... it was a magnificent display of aggressive but responsible batting." Despite blandishments from his captain, Garry Sobers, Nurse stuck to his retirement plans.

Imran Khan
It's not a bad way to bow out: holding the World Cup aloft as captain of the winning side. That's the way Imran rounded off his stellar career, in Melbourne in 1992, after top-scoring and then taking the final wicket in Pakistan's defeat of England. The only others whose last international appearance came as part of the winning side in a World Cup final were Rohan Kanhai of West Indies in 1975, and the Australian pair of Paul Reiffel (1999) and Glenn McGrath (2007).

Bill Ponsford
The tall-scoring Victorian opener Ponsford retired from international cricket after the 1934 Ashes tour of England. He scored 181 in the fourth Test, then, in the final match at The Oval, added the little matter of 266, most of it during a partnership of 451 with Don Bradman, who made 244. This helped set up a crushing 562-run victory, one that reclaimed the Ashes, lost by Australia during the Bodyline series 18 months previously.

Barry Richards
As South Africa completed their 4-0 whitewash of Australia in Port Elizabeth in 1969-70, the peerless opener Richards made 81 and 126. After that, objections to South Africa's apartheid government meant they played no more official international cricket for 22 years, by which time Richards had retired. "If I'd known that was my last Test," he once said, "they'd never have got me out..."

Jason Gillespie
High-stepping, hair-flowing fast bowler Gillespie was an automatic choice for Australia for around six years, but he lost his place after struggling for penetration in the 2005 Ashes series, in which he took three wickets at an average of 100. Gillespie got his place back for the tour of Bangladesh early the following year, and did well enough with the ball... but it was with the bat that he surprised everyone. In the second Test, in Chittagong, "Dizzy" went in as nightwatchman late on the first day, after the early departure of Matthew Hayden. He was still there at the end of the (rain-affected) second day, and at the end of the third, by which time the man whose previous-highest score in first-class cricket was 58 had completed a maiden century. On the fourth day he accelerated, and eventually - after nine and a half hours at the crease - reached 201, at which point Australia declared, and went on to win by an innings. The sting in the tail was that this turned out to be Gillespie's final Test appearance.

Andy Caddick
The tall Somerset fast bowler Caddick bowled England to a satisfying victory in Sydney in the New Year Test of 2003 with ten wickets, including a decisive 7 for 94 in the second innings as Australia made it only halfway to a target of 452. The bad news for England was that this only reduced the series deficit to 4-1, as the Aussies had won the first four Tests. And the bad news for Caddick was that, mainly because of a foot injury which kept him out of the following English season, he never played for England again.

Andy Sandham
What happens when you score Test cricket's first triple-century? Well, you don't play for your country again. That was the fate of the Surrey opener Sandham, who made 325 for England against West Indies in Kingston in 1929-30. Sandham's later non-selection isn't quite as bizarre as it might now appear: he was nearly 40, and the team in the Caribbean did not include many England regulars - especially the first-choice opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe - who returned for the Ashes series at home in the summer of 1930.

Bill O'Reilly
The combative Australian legspinner O'Reilly was a major handful in the 1930s - and he showed, in the first postwar Test in 1945-46, that he was still a force to be reckoned with, taking 5 for 14 and 3 for 19 as New Zealand were humbled for 42 and 54 in Wellington. But O'Reilly, who was 40 and had been having knee trouble, knew it was time to go: "Returning to our dressing room... I removed my cricket boots and threw them through the window as a gesture of complete surrender."

Anthony Stuart
The lanky New South Wales fast bowler Stuart was naturally delighted to make his debut for Australia in a one-day international in January 1997 - and even more delighted less than a fortnight later when, in only his third match, he claimed a high-class hat-trick to reduce Pakistan to 29 for 5 at the MCG. But that was Stuart's last hurrah - he lost form and, not much more than a year later, couldn't even get into the NSW side.

Hugh Trumble
The tall Victorian offspinner Trumble came closer than anyone else to bowing out of Test cricket with a hat-trick: in the final Ashes Test of 1903-04, he took 7 for 28 to seal a 218-run triumph, and there was only one wicket left after he dismissed Bernard Bosanquet, the touring captain Plum Warner and Dick Lilley with successive deliveries. The last pair added 40 before Trumble finished things off with his last ball in Test (and first-class) cricket. He "bowled in his finest form, and was practically unplayable", according to Wisden.

Dennis Amiss
The last act of Amiss' distinguished international career was to hit the winning boundary in an Ashes Test - at Old Trafford in July 1977. That was Amiss' 50th Test - and his last, as after this the prodigal son, Geoff Boycott, returned to the fold and took his place. The previous month Amiss had played what turned out to be his last one-day international... and made 108 at The Oval.

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