October 29, 2012

Five in one and done

Cricketers who played all five Tests of a series, and no more

Jack Iverson
The Victoria "mystery spinner" Iverson - he flicked the ball off his middle finger, after years of practice with a table-tennis ball - had one of the most remarkable Test careers of all. Selected almost from nowhere for the 1950-51 Ashes series, aged 35, he mesmerised England's batsmen in the course of taking 21 wickets at 15.23, including 6 for 27 in Sydney. Australia retained the Ashes 4-1 - but that was it for Iverson. He never played another Test, even though there were many who thought he should have gone to England for the 1953 Ashes: "He would have murdered England," lamented Keith Miller.

Ian Thomson
Thomson was a 100-wickets-a-season seamer for Sussex every year from 1953 - when he received his county cap - to 1964. He turned 35 that season, and must have thought Test cricket had passed him by... but, with some senior players rested, he was called up for the 1964-65 tour of South Africa. Even then he might not have expected to feature much, but injuries meant he played in all five Tests, in which he took nine wickets at 63 on hard pitches far removed from those at home at Hove. In the final Test, in Port Elizabeth, he took the new ball with Somerset's Ken Palmer, another bowler of modest pace, who had been called up from a nearby coaching assignment to bolster the injury-hit squad. Fred Trueman, one of those overlooked for the trip (even though he was younger than Thomson), was on a private tour sponsored by Rothmans at the time, and could not contain his frustration when he read the news: "I'm here playing for cigarette coupons while Ian Thomson and Kenny Palmer are opening t'bowling for England," was the gist of his remarks, from which several adjectives have been removed to protect the innocent.

Pochiah Krishnamurthy
India completed their famous victory in the West Indies in 1970-71 - helped by Sunil Gavaskar's 774 runs in his debut series - without Farokh Engineer, their charismatic wicketkeeper, who had been left out of the touring party as he had been playing county cricket in England. The selectors overlooked the fact that Engineer was available, and in good enough form to have been chosen for the stellar Rest of the World team that played unofficial Tests in England in 1970: instead his place went to Krishnamurthy from Hyderabad. He performed efficiently behind the stumps, but not too well in front of them, scoring only 33 runs at 5.50 in the series. Engineer was restored for the England tour that followed, and Krishnamurthy never featured again.

Grahame Corling
A brisk seamer from Newcastle, up the New South Wales coast, Corling played in all five Tests in England in 1964. Although he took only 12 wickets, they included the scalp of Geoff Boycott (in his debut series) on three occasions, caught at slip each time. Corling's ability to move the ball away outside off "forced me into a fundamental change in my batting style", admitted Boycott in his autobiography. But Corling had two mediocre domestic seasons after that tour, and never came close to selection again: he played his last first-class match in 1968-69, aged only 27.

Norman Gordon
Gordon was a persistent fast bowler who toiled through nearly 250 eight-ball overs in his one and only Test series - for South Africa against England in 1938-39 - including 92.2 (738 deliveries) in the ten-day Timeless Test in Durban that concluded that high-scoring rubber. He did take 20 wickets, although they cost him more than 40 apiece. Unfortunately for Gordon - and opener Pieter van der Bijl, who also played throughout - the Second World War meant it was more than eight years before South Africa's next Test match. Gordon, the first Test cricketer known to have reached three figures, celebrated his 101st birthday in August 2012: he is also the last pre-war Test survivor.

Frank Mann
The Middlesex amateur Mann took charge of England's tour of South Africa in 1922-23, in the days when the regular captain would often take a tour off. Mann did well enough, overseeing a 2-1 victory and scoring 84 in the third Test, but he was never called upon again. There was a family double when his son George skippered the 1948-49 tour of South Africa. England won that one 2-0, but George, who scored a century in the final Test, did win another couple of caps at home the following summer. During that South African series he was twice dismissed by South Africa's slow left-armer Tufty Mann - "A classic example," according to the watching John Arlott, "of Mann's inhumanity to Mann."

Nazar Mohammad
Pakistan's maiden Test series, in India in 1952-53, was the only one for their opener Nazar, who distinguished himself by carrying his bat for 124 in the second match in Lucknow, which Pakistan won by an innings. Not long after the tour, Nazar broke his arm - after jumping from an upper-storey window to avoid a jealous husband, according to some reports - and played no more first-class cricket. His son, Mudassar Nazar, won 76 Test caps.

Chris Adams
The only man since 1973 whose Test career amounted to just one five-match series, Adams - now Surrey's director of cricket - was a forthright batsman for Derbyshire and, later, Sussex. He scored nearly 20,000 first-class runs at an average pushing 40 - but only 104 of them came in the five Tests of his only Test series, in South Africa in 1999-2000. His debut, in the first match in Johannesburg, was memorable: he came in with England 2 for 4 in the third over, against Allan Donald with his tail up. Adams and Michael Vaughan, another debutant who would play rather more, steadied the ship a little with a stand of 32, but England still lost heavily.

Joe Hunter
The first-ever five-Test series was in Australia in 1884-85, and the Yorkshire wicketkeeper Hunter played throughout it, his only taste of international cricket. A useful keeper and handy batsman, Hunter made 39 not out in a last-wicket stand of 98 with Johnny Briggs (121) in the second Test in Melbourne, an important contribution to a victory in a series which England eventually shaded 3-2.

Jeff Hammond
A fast-medium swing bowler from Adelaide, Hammond toured England in 1972 without winning a Test cap, mainly thanks to the exploits of Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie - but early the next year in the West Indies, with Lillee injured and Massie out of form, Hammond played throughout a five-Test series that Australia won 2-0. Hammond took 15 wickets, seven of them in the fourth Test, in Georgetown, where Australia clinched the rubber. But injuries impinged, Lillee returned, and Jeff Thomson arrived: Hammond never won another cap.

Claude Jennings and Barlow Carkeek
In all, there are 28 men whose Test career each consisted of one solitary five-match series. However, there are also two Australians whose entire career amounted to six Tests in England in 1912 - but in the summer of the Triangular Tournament, that meant three games against England and three against South Africa. The pair were Jennings, a batsman from Queensland who never played first-class cricket again after the tour, and the Victoria wicketkeeper William "Barlow" Carkeek. They owed their places to a dispute between the fledgling Australian board and the senior players, several of whom refused to tour. Carkeek doesn't seem to rank among Australia's greatest glovemen: he had been the reserve keeper on the previous England tour in 1909, and dropped 54 chances in his 12 games, according to one source.

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