Alfonso Clive Thomas
February 09, 1977, Cape Town, Cape Province
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Despite an international career lasting only a few hours, Alfonso Thomas earned a reputation as one of the best death bowlers in world cricket.
Much of Thomas' career bears the hallmarks of a journeyman: he went from team to team, earning a decent living and occasionally enjoying a day in the sun. But had it not been for the advent of T20 cricket and a somewhat fortuitous call-up as an overseas player in county cricket, it is a career that might never have reached fulfilment.
Thomas' first appearances for Western Province B were not promising. He claimed two wickets in his first three first-class games and did not appear again at that level for a couple of years. By then he had moved to North West and, as well as enjoying more success with the ball, he scored a maiden first-class century batting at No. 10 in adding 174 for the 10th wicket with Garth Roe. A few months later, with his team at 87-7, he added 204 with Morne Strydom against Western Province, with Thomas finishing unbeaten on 95. He claimed his maiden five-wicket haul - 6-26 - against Easterns in his next match.
He claimed three five-wicket hauls in the first five games of 2001-02 and, on the way to finishing the season as his side's highest wicket-taker (he claimed 35 at 22.14 apiece), he was selected for the South Africa side in the Hong Kong Sixes in November 2001 and the South Africa A side to play against the touring India A side.
A successful move to Northerns for the 2003-04 season nudged the selectors and, after an impressive stint with South Africa A, he replaced the injured Andre Nel in the Test squad to India late in 2004.
It was not until 2007 that he was called into the international side, though. In a T20I against Pakistan, Thomas claimed 3-25 and was arguably the pick of the bowlers in helping his side to a 10-wicket victory. But in a strong era of South African seamers, it was to be his only international appearance.
Instead, in the English summer of 2007, he found himself playing club cricket for Audley in the North Staffs South Cheshire League. Responding to an emergency call-up from Warwickshire - who found themselves hurtling to relegation in the first-class and List A league and had already utilised three overseas players - he played four games and performed relatively well in a struggling side. While it was not enough to avoid relegation or win a longer-term deal, it was enough to attract the attention of Somerset's director of cricket, Brian Rose, who offered a contract as a Kolpak registration for the 2008 season.
It was the start of an enduring and happy relationship, one for which he remained forever grateful. He returned every year until his retirement in 2015, moving his family to Taunton and winning over supporters with his obvious commitment and enthusiasm. Unusually for a seamer in his mid-30s, he also appeared to find another yard of pace.
He claimed a five-wicket haul for Somerset in just his second match and, up until the end of the 2014 season, had claimed 279 first-class wickets at an average of 26.37 for the club. Highlights include leading the club (he captained in the absence of Marcus Trescothick) to the semi-final of the Champions League in 2011 and taking the club to within the brink of their first Championship title in 2010 - Thomas claimed 49 wickets at 24.53 - with the club also finishing second in both limited-overs competitions. In 2014, in a match against Sussex at Taunton, also became the first man in the club's history to take four wickets in four balls in a first-class game.
The increased exposure led to more opportunities for Thomas. He represented Pune Warriors in the IPL in 2011 and 2012, Dhaka Gladiators in the 2013 BPL and Adelaide Strikers (for the 2011-12 season) and Perth Scorchers (for 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons) in the Big Bash. With an excellent yorker and an apparently unflappable temperament, he delivered many match-defining spells of death bowling and remained in high demand in the shortest format. Dhaka won the BPL the year he played for them, as did Perth in 2012-14. When he retired, he was, by some distance, Somerset's highest wicket-taker in the T20 format.
He broke his ankle playing golf in October 2014 but returned to Taunton for his eighth season with the club in 2015, taking his haul in all competitions for the county past 550 wickets. "The turning point of my career came when a man called Brian Rose showed belief in me," Thomas told ESPNcricinfo in 2014. "I love Somerset." Down in the West Country, the admiration was mutual.
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