Cricketer of the Year, 1989

Franklyn Stephenson

When Franklyn Stephenson cracked Neil Hartley past backward point for four on the last day of the 1988 season, it was the culmination of a remarkable achievement by Nottinghamshire's affable 29-year-old Barbadian. In completing the double, a feat performed just once before since the first-class programme was shortened twenty years ago, by Richard Hadlee in 1984, Stephenson also became only the third player ever to score two hundreds and take ten wickets in the same match. B. J. T. Bosanquet had been the first in 1905, George Hirst was the second a year later. A few hours before that final innings against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, he had admitted that the double was unlikely; 99 runs to order was a demanding target, even for a middle-order batsman of Stephenson's disposition. In the event a punishing 117, including 92 in boundaries, followed a first innings of 111 and eleven wickets to secure a niche in history in his first full season of county cricket.

Surprisingly, those centuries were his first since his début for Barbados against Leeward Island in Basseterre in March 1982. A night-watchman's innings of 165 against an attack spearheaded by Andy Roberts was described as one of the finest displays of clean hitting seen in the Shell Shield for many years. Last year he had hit seven fifties before his spectacular finale. Sometimes his concentration lapsed, and he became impatient batting at No. 7 when expecting a declaration. The Nottinghamshire captain, Tim Robinson, had refused to let him bat higher in the order.

"I've never respected bowlers," he says. "If I'm beaten. I try to smash the next ball out of the ground." As well as occasionally contributing to his downfall, this swashbuckling method caused him to miss two games after Gloucestershire's Kevin Curran broke his nose in May. Stephenson blamed himself. It was a bad shot, not really a hook, more a reflex paddle. Physiotherapist Sheila Ball, surveying the damage, was told, "Fetch a plaster and my helmet."

His own bowling, however, wrought the most havoc, his 125 wickets being the most by a Nottinghamshire bowler since Bruce Dooland's 136 in 1957. The action determines stock in-movement, but swing and cut are not the prime elements; rather, it is bounce, from a height of 6ft 3½in, and pace which make him a true attacking bowler, astute at adapting to conditions and capable, also, of containment. Batsmen are forced to play regularly, and sometimes inadvisedly, when balls are delivered from wide of the crease and held up off the seam. Then, too, there is his regular employment of a slower ball which earned around a quarter of all his wickets, in addition to providing various comic cameos. It's a versatile ball, he chuckles, can bowl you overhead on the full [as happened to Derbyshire's Allan Warner] or under your nose, and is also good for sloggers - though it sometimes goes for six!

Some critics attributed part of Stephenson's success to a wet summer and to bowler's pitches generally. But while conceding that batting was at times unduly difficult he also gives credit to his opening foil, Kevin Cooper, the only other bowler to glean 100 wickets in 1988. Fast bowlers still hunt in pairs. Pointedly, give the recent reputation of Trent Bridge pitches, when Stephenson reached 100 wickets, exactly 50 had been captured away from Nottingham.

Ken Taylor, Nottinghamshire's manager, calls him a thinking, intelligent cricketer, popular with players and supporters alike and a marvellous recruit. He dropped catches in the slips and sometimes bowled too short at the start, and his time-keeping was a constant source of irritation. However, Stephenson's all-round success is best appreciated within its context; the balance of the county side had changed fundamentally, for Rice and Hadlee were seen as four players, the first four Championship games had been lost, and inner conflict was rife. As Stephenson developed, so Nottinghamshire's confidence grew.

Born on April 8, 1959, FRANKLYN DACOSTA STEPHENSON hails from Holders Hill, a Cricket enclave on the west coast of Barbados, and as a waiter he played initially for the Hotels team. Having toured England with the West Indies Young Cricketers in 1978, he joined a lineage of legends in the Central Lancashire League, superceding Joel Garner at Littleborough in 1979 before moving to Royton and representing Staffordshire in 1980. Tasmania signed him for 1981-82 and a spectacular first-class début ensued; six for 19 (ten for 46 in the match) against Victoria at the MCG. In 1982 and 1983 he played for Gloucestershire in mid-week, fulfilling his league commitments at weekends, but he feel foul of a muddled arrangement exacerbated by Zaheer Abbas's involvement in a testimonial and the World Cup. Participation in the tours to South Africa by West Indian sides in 1982-83 and 1983-84 earned a life ban from West Indian cricket, although it should be remembered that vox populi in Barbados favoured the tour.

Last season, in the shadow of Hadlee, was the ultimate test of his cricketing ability. He responded with 1,018 runs in addition to his 125 wickets, and he bowled more overs (819) than any bowler except the Somerset spinner, Vic Marks. In preparation for a repeat of the annus mirabilis, he spent last winter applying himself to playing more consistent innings, and swimming to eradicate the shoulder strain which occurred when he tried to york Gus Logie in the West Indians' tour match against Nottinghamshire. Stephenson follows the tradition of Trent Bridge's other Barbadian all-rounder, Sir Garfield Sobers, as a scratch golfer, and he is already laying the groundwork for an eventual alternative sporting career. Aficionados of true Caribbean style will hope it is delayed a little while yet.

© John Wisden & Co