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Stephen Brenkley chooses his cult heroes from Durham
Russell Inglis (Durham career 1956-73)
It is often said of small-time players that they could have made it in the bigger time if only for this, that or t'other. Russell Inglis could have made it. He chose to stay close to home and for the best part of two decades he was Durham cricket. It was people like Inglis who planted the seed that they could grow into a fi rst-class county - which he might have graced. He began for them in 1956 and fi nished suddenly - after 140 matches - when struck down by illness at the end of 1973, the summer of what remains probably their greatest triumph, against Yorkshire in the Gillette Cup. In 1982, Durham's centenary, he died of a heart attack. He was 45 and perhaps that adds lustre to his memory. As an opening batsman he was polished, unfl ustered, the first name in the order and on the team sheet.
Simon Brown (1992-2002)
An electrician by trade, Simon Brown was the only bowler who made the sparks fl y for Durham in their early Championship days. He had played 15 fi rst-class matches for Northants and went on to play once for England in 1996 but he became a stalwart in his home county. Throughout the 1990s, when others were breaking down or losing form, Brown stayed fi t and consistent. He took 50 fi rst-class wickets seven times with his left-arm swing, and 518 for the county in all, comfortably a record. He was rather shame-facedly refused a new contract in 2002, largely and ironically because of injuries. His body had begun to complain at all the overs he had bowled. Not quite a lone fi gure charging in - though few bowled more overs - he sometimes looked careworn, perhaps because he knew that, if he did not take a wicket, nobody else would.
Jimmy Daley (1992-2002)
David Graveney (1992-94)
All right, all right, he has been chairman of the England selectors for nine years, played for Gloucestershire as a worthy left-arm spinner for 19 seasons and managed a rebel tour to South Africa. But his brief connection with Durham in between should never be underestimated (in his selectorial role it may have helped the careers of Simon Brown and, especially, Paul Collingwood). The county have had more successful captains and more accomplished players but Graveney was the man charged with pulling a disparate bunch together in their fi rst two years. In doing so he forged an enduring bond with the fans and became a cult fi gure. "C'mon Davy, son," was a constant shout. Everybody had a word for him and it was reciprocated. Durham were pretty hopeless but under Graveney, whose 92 Championship wickets for the county cost almost 40 runs each, they created spirit and hope.
Chris Scott (1992-96)
In July 1994 Chris Scott made his maiden century, 13 years after his fi rst-class debut. Scott was perhaps least celebrated of the seasoned pros signed to ease Durham's passage in their fi rst years in the Championship. But his quiet profi ciency behind the stumps and his diligent, if limited, batting were highly regarded by supporters who appreciated the work ethic. Two other Durham wicketkeepers might have fi lled this slot, Bobby Cole who came before and Andy Pratt who came after, but Scott was there at the start of something. He spent the fi rst part of his career understudying Bruce French at Nottinghamshire, where he was eventually capped for long service. He was most unfl ashy but was genuinely respected and admired, which took some doing considering his most famous act as a cricketer: a month before his maiden hundred Scott dropped a straightforward chance at Edgbaston off Simon Brown (see above) with the batsman on 18. Brian Lara went on to make 501.
This article was first published in the March issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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Stephen Brenkley is cricket correspondent of the Independent on Sunday
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