February 18, 2013

Flowers, Cake and Love

Cricketers with romantic names

Alf Valentine
A romantic name for a man who made a romantic start in Test cricket: called up for West Indies' 1950 tour of England after just two trial matches, slow left-armer Valentine (and his equally unsung partner-in-spin, Sonny Ramadhin) carried the attack that summer as West Indies won their first series in England in memorable fashion. Valentine started by taking the first eight wickets to fall in his first Test, at Old Trafford, and ended the four-match series with 33 wickets. Early in the tour his team-mates realised Valentine couldn't see the scoreboard properly, and he was sent off to collect what became his trademark National Health spectacles.

Valentine Faithfull
His name might sound like the message on the inside of a card, but Valentine Faithfull played for Cambridge University against MCC at Lord's in 1841. He lived in Scotland for most of his life, and married Fanny Farquharson in Edinburgh in 1850.

Martin Love
Queenslander Martin Love was one of those deprived of more Test caps by Australia's all-powerful batting line-up in recent years. Love made a hundred when Queensland won the Sheffield Shield for the first time, in 1994-95, and ended with another ton in the 2008-09 final. In between, he made the state's first triple-century, scored heavily for Durham, and won five Test caps - scoring his only hundred in what turned out to be his last match.

Andy Flower
A. Flower, as he appeared on so many scorecards alongside his brother Grant, was easily Zimbabwe's best batsman - an accomplished left-hander, particularly strong on the sweep - before his international career ended with that brave black-armband protest about the "death of democracy" in his country during the 2003 World Cup. He hasn't been back to Zimbabwe since, but has thrived in Britain: after scoring lots of runs for Essex, he moved seamlessly into coaching and is now secure in the top job, overseeing England's Test team.

Russell Cake
The maker of a century in the 1995 Varsity Match at Lord's - when his 101 included five sixes - Cake was a handy batsman who also played for Surrey's Second XI. He now serves on MCC's committees.

Anurag Singh
"Anurag" is a Hindi word for love, but Kanpur-born Singh showed little of that when scoring 187 for Worcestershire against Gloucestershire in Bristol in June 2002, when he easily outscored Graeme Hick (72) in a partnership of 165. It was one of Singh's 11 first-class centuries during a career in which he also played for Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire, and captained Cambridge University.

Brian and Graham Rose
Two versions of the Valentine's Day flower of choice have represented Somerset recently. Left-hander Brian had a fine career, scoring lots of runs from the top of the order and eventually playing for England, although he is perhaps best remembered as the captain who declared at 1 for 0 in a one-day game to preserve his side's run rate (it didn't work, as they were chucked out of the competition anyway). And Graham Rose was a cheerful allrounder whose big-hitting feats included a 36-ball hundred against Devon in 1990, still the fastest in List A cricket.

Gary Sweet
Not quite a first-class cricketer, but many people have watched Sweet bat, possibly without realising it - he was the Australian actor who portrayed Don Bradman in the 1980s mini-series Bodyline.

Ben Spendlove
Spendlove - whose name sounds like what you might have to do if you forgot Valentine's Day - had a modest career for Derbyshire (656 runs at less than 20), but his name appears proudly on an England Test scorecard: at Edgbaston in 1998 he fielded as a substitute against South Africa, and caught opener Gerhardus Liebenberg and skipper Hansie Cronje, both off the bowling of his county colleague Dominic Cork.

Matthew and Robert Hart
The Hart brothers from Hamilton both played for Northern Districts and New Zealand - although it wasn't quite a case of Harts entwined at international level, as slow left-armer Matthew played the last of his 14 Tests more than six years before wicketkeeper Robbie won the first of his 11 caps in May 2002.

Joe Darling
Captain Darling long before Blackadder was even thought of, Joe was a well-built left-hander, his muscles toned from time on the family farm. The first man to hit a six in a Test, Darling was one of Australia's finest skippers, leading them - at a time when the captain was elected by the players under his command - on three Ashes tours, in 1899, 1902 and 1905.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook