CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1979

Clive Radley

The ball from Sikander Bakht that broke the arm of England's captain on January 15, 1978 had wide-ranging consequences for two Middlesex batsmen. It meant an abrupt end to Brearley's tour, but for Clive Radley it initiated a Test career that seemed likely to elude him.

With one Test left in Pakistan and three to come in New Zealand, England needed somebody reliable and adaptable to differing conditions. Radley's claim was considered superior to that of the other batting stand-by, Whitehouse of Warwickshire, and the call from Donald Carr to Sydney, where he was coaching, galvanised him into hectic action. His flight to Karachi did not end with an immediate Test place, but, at 33, Clive Thornton Radley made his England d├ębut at Christchurch.

In his second Test at Auckland he was the absolute cornerstone of the innings as England faced 315 on a pitch that, Radley says, was "low, slow, and easy to get out on." Having achieved the considerable feat of outlasting Boycott, he batted ten and three-quarter hours over three days in his country's cause. "It was an uncharacteristic innings," he observes, "as I normally like to keep my score active. But the game meandered along slowly and there were frequent breaks for showers and drinks. During our stand Boycott, the captain, kept reminding me how much longer a Test lasted and to bat accordingly."

There was, surprisingly, churlish comment about Radley's slightly jerky, kneesbent style from critics who, perhaps, were accustomed to him making swifter centuries. But if he eliminates swift running - and there would have been not much activity between the wickets with Boycott around - and audacious cutting, he eliminates much of his visual appeal. Handsome is as handsome does, and England have surely had enough elegant stroke-makers not blessed with the ability to stay in.

Radley soon gave further evidence that he could be one of those players, like David Steele, who are able to reproduce their county form and more in Tests. His next innings was against a weakened Pakistan at Edgbaston, where he made another hundred, his temperament surviving a night on 97. The atmosphere was not exactly a crucible, but England's players remarked all season that you can play only one Test at a time.

The Edgbaston Test established him as England's number three, but failures by Brearley and Gooch meant that he was virtually an opening batsman. He fell to loose shots at Lord's and Leeds, but against New Zealand produced runs in every first innings, developing the alliance forged with Gower at Birmingham. What a sight they were - both blond, both flying back and forth, the older man losing nothing in speed, and, in that thrilling final hour on the second day at Lord's matching the gifted Gower's strokes.

Radley was born in Hertford on May 13, 1944, and Middlesex are indebted to Archie Fowler - that Lord's institution - and Bill Edrich for his arrival at Lord's nineteen years later. Fowler coached him as a Norwich schoolboy and Edrich, with whom he played in the Norfolk XI, smoothed the way to Middlesex. Not that there was any problem about a young Norfolk batsman. In the early 1960s a Norfolk grounding was a perfect credential; Edrich had just retired and Parfitt was at his zenith.

After a few games in 1964 he completed his introduction to Middlesex members with a memorable 148 against the 1965 South Africans. He added 227 with Titmus, and completed his century against the ferocious Peter Pollock with the new ball by nonchalantly collecting 10 runs in one over. He rapidly became one of the main batsmen and progressed encouragingly through his twenties as he developed some leg-side strokes when bowlers learned that he had a versatile cut and a powerful off-drive.

The 1973 season brought his first glimpse of a Test. He went to the Trial at Hove averaging 78 but failed in the vital first innings. His next hope came when on stand-by for the 1976-77 tour, and it is easy to understand his incredulous comment: "Amazingly, for a tour of India, nobody was injured or ill."

Next winter his luck changed. "The first time things have gone right for me in terms of England. Having been overtaken by two generations of Middlesex batsmen - Barlow and Gatting - I believed I would always stay a county player." When the call came he was coaching in Sydney under the auspices of Channel Nine. This new venture, after eleven seasons in South Africa, had been approved by the TCCB.

Radley has made a full contribution to the harmony and success of the Middlesex side recently, becoming vice-captain last season under Brearley, the man who united the team. His most enjoyable moments on the field come when he cuts off the top of the off stump to an untennanted third-man and sprints three or four. Better still is four overthrows when a lightning dash tempts a fielder. "I like fives," he says, "and am fully prepared to accept the hazards of risky running." Radley was one of the first to perfect a style of turning which involves stopping short and lunging the bat into the crease. - T.C.

© John Wisden & Co