Oliver John Douglas Pope
January 02, 1998, Chelsea, Middlesex
Right hand Bat
Middle order Batter
Cranleigh School, Surrey
Ollie Pope's rapid transition from inventive T20 strokemaker to heavy Championship run scorer attracted the attention of England's national selector Ed Smith when Pope was given a Test debut against India as a specialist batsman in the summer of 2018. To bat at No. 4 after only 15 first-class matches against such powerful opposition was a considerable challenge. He played only two Tests, but he had put down a marker, and at season's end he had contributed 986 runs at an average of 70.43 to Surrey's title-winning season, including a sparkling unbeaten 158 against Yorkshire at The Oval, a career-best, as well as some flashes of ambition in limited-overs formats.
In 2019, he suffered an early setback when fielding in a game against Essex, as he dislocated his shoulder diving to stop a ball. It required surgery, but time out of the game proved to be a positive - "it gave me time to reflect and think about what I can do to take my batting to the next level," he reflected. He shifted his stance, batting on middle-and-off rather than middle, and the change worked immediately, as he hit an unbeaten 221 in his first Championship game back. He was on standby as a concussion substitute throughout the Ashes summer, though remained unused, but his call-up for the winter tour of New Zealand seemed to suggest a chance to make the No. 6 spot his own would be forthcoming.
And so it would prove. Despite unexpectedly keeping wicket in the second Test of that series after a late injury to Jos Buttler, Pope impressed with a fluent 75 in partnership with Joe Root, before starring on the tour to South Africa. His unbeaten 61 underpinned England's effort at Cape Town, and in their win at Port Elizabeth he was superb, compiling a maiden hundred and becoming England's young centurion since Alastair Cook in the process. He also proved himself as an electric close fielder, taking several catches under the helmet over the course of the tour.
Fallow periods followed, not least a dispiriting 2021/22 Ashes of 67 runs from three Tests which felt like the start of a necessary absence, away from the limelight. However, Ben Stokes' appointment as Test captain at the start of the following summer brought with it an opportunity. Pope took the initiative to call Stokes and ask to bat three, the only position available in the batting line-up. The skipper appreciated the chutzpah and agreed. Pope held up his end of the deal not just with runs (791 in 12 Tests, two centuries among them) but rate of scoring (75.04). Stokes rewarded him with greater responsibility as unofficial vice-captain, which saw Pope take the reins for warm-up matches ahead of the winter's tours of Pakistan and New Zealand.
Pope, a part-time wicketkeeper full of batting invention, made great strides for Surrey in 2017 in all three formats. It was his trickery as a Twenty20 batsman that most won most admirers, but there was also a maiden Championship century. That hundred came in only his third Championship appearance, against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, and was full of energetic cuts and pulls as he ended Hampshire's hopes of a last-day victory, the innings culminating in slightly hollow circumstances with an over from the part-time bowling of James Vince, the England batsman, as Hampshire gloomily awaited the draw.
His Championship debut also made him part of a historic moment when Surrey fielded four teenagers against Middlesex at The Oval, the first time that had happened in a Championship match since World War 2.
Pope's 50-over debut had come in 2016, in a Royal London Cup semi-final victory against Yorkshire at Headingley in 2016; he did not take the gloves - he was one of five wicketkeepers in the Surrey side with a sixth, the coach Alec Stewart, looking on, but immediately revealed his busy batting style. Unfortunately for him, the highest-profile moment of his 2017 summer was his drop of Alex Hales - on 9 - in the 50-over final; Hales went on to make a record-breaking 187 not out.
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