Mattheus Hendrik Wessels
November 12, 1985, Australia
Right hand Bat
Middle order Batter
Riki Wessels, an enterprising batsman-wicketkeeper capable of wreaking havoc, is the son of the former Australia and South Africa player and former Northants coach Kepler Wessels. He achieved British citizenship in 2016, but it came just as England assembled one of their most exciting batting line-ups for years in limited-overs cricket, tempering suggestions that he might win international honours.
The manner of his arrival in county cricket did not please everyone. Controversially, Nottinghamshire had exploited a loophole to enable Wessels to join the county on an Entrepreneur Visa in April 2011. The rules were altered specifically to exclude sportsmen shortly afterwards.
Wessels was born in Australia and grew up in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, due to his father playing for the South Africa cricket team, having previously played for Australia when South Africa were banned from Test Cricket. Cricket was not quite an automatic choice for Wessels jnr - he dabbled in hockey - but at 18 he made the decision to head for the UK. Unsurprisingly, he began his county career at Northants where his father coached, identifying himself as a player of promise after scoring a maiden first-class century in 2005 against Somerset.
He had to be released by Northants at the end of 2009 when the ECB criteria on Kolpak qualification was tightened. He moved to Zimbabwe to play for the Mid West Rhinos, but was pursued by Nottinghamshire, who wanted a back-up wicketkeeper for Chris Read who could also add to their batting resources.
After modest first-class returns in 2011, when he averaged 20.21 from 10 matches, he enjoyed a much more successful 2012 season, particularly in first-class cricket, where he began in the middle order but later established himself as an opener. His aggregate of 905 runs was his biggest in England, as was his average of 45.25. His three first-class centuries included a career-best 199 against Sussex at Hove.
Although unable to match such standards the following year as Notts' perennial issues with their opening batting spots looked no closer to a solution, he bounced back in impressive style in the next two seasons, being named as Nottinghamshire's player of the year in 2014 after scoring 1,667 runs across all formats and extending that to 1,868 a year later, passing 1,000 Championship runs on each occasion and proving himself a dangerous top-order player in T20.
With more than 3,500 runs across all formats in the previous two seasons, the occasional England mention was assured, but his British citizenship coincided with a dismal 2016 season in Championship cricket in which he made 159 not out against Durham but otherwise mustered barely 300 runs in 20 knocks and was dropped at the end of the season as Notts were relegated.
Wessels, though, was as prolific as ever in the limited-overs formats. Most eye-catchingly, he teamed up with Michael Lumb in 2016 to set what was a new record stand for a List A game in England: 342 in 39.2 overs in a Royal London Cup game against Northants at Trent Bridge, beating the 318 amassed by India's Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly against Sri Lanka in Taunton in the 1999 World Cup. Wessels hit 146 and Nottinghamshire's 445 for 8 in their 50 overs was the second highest total in List A matches worldwide at the time. Astonishingly, despite being stricken by injuries, Northants got within 20 runs.
He also had his moments in Notts' successful 2017 as they won both limited-overs trophies and added promotion in the Championship for good measure. He became the first man to score a Twenty20 century for Nottinghamshire as they beat Derbyshire in a thrilling game at Trent Bridge, smashing seven sixes in his 54-ball 110 as Notts posted 227-3, their highest T20 total. There was no more dangerous opening combination in the Blast than Wessels and Alex Hales - Hales, long-limbed and languid, flowing into the slightest width; Wessels, squatter and crouched in old-fashioned style, hunting down a bowler with calculated square-of-the-wicket forays.
At 32, Wessels took up a three-year contract at Worcestershire, stating that he needed a new challenge. He had no cause to remind Worcestershire of his destructive talent: he had hit nine sixes in 55 against them in a T20 Blast earlier that summer.
Batting & Fielding