September 18, 1970, Monk Bretton, Barnsley, Yorkshire
Right hand Bat
Right arm Fast medium
Dazzler, extrovert, inspirer, attack leader and England's best strike bowler since Bob Willis and Ian Botham, Darren Gough grew from often-injured good to match-fit great, until a long-standing knee problem curtailed his Ashes campaign in 2002-03 heralding a premature end to his Test career the following summer.
However, he refused to concede his playing days were over and continued in England one-day colours, hanging grimly to a place until he was omitted from the 2007 World Cup Squad. But, not one for a quiet ending, after three years at Essex he returned to Yorkshire as captain on a two-year deal in 2007.
Not blessed with the height of Curtly Ambrose or Glenn McGrath - and thus lacking a stock ball to match - Gough developed other means of claiming wickets by watching, experimenting and learning. In the process he became England's first and foremost exponent of reverse-swing and a fine changer of pace. Just as Fred Trueman needed a straight man in Brian Statham to complement him, so had Gough in Andy Caddick. A showman like Cork, with a softer side, Gough could inspire team-mates and crowds with a diving catch or some daring hitting as well. He had the right chemistry to cause spontaneous combustion, to make things happen and help others play above themselves.
Nobody contributed more to England's four series wins in a row in 2000 and 2000-01 than Gough, who was Man of the Series against West Indies and in Sri Lanka. Succeeding there and in Pakistan, the traditional graveyard of fast bowlers, was the final stage of his development, although even his self-confidence took a battering after England's failure to compete against Australia the following summer.
In need of a rest, he chose to miss England's trip to India, and though selected for the one-dayers in New Zealand, he damaged his knee in the final match - it seemed trivial at the time, but mushroomed into a year of misdiagnosis and aborted comebacks. He was forced out of the Ashes tour and the World Cup, but somehow willed himself back to fitness in time for the 2003 season, when lesser mortals would have accepted their fate. And though he was instrumental in England's NatWest Series victory that summer, he was exposed in Test cricket, from which he retired after a heavy Lord's defeat against South Africa. He was overlooked for the one-day series in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the following winter, and, in January 2004, he parted company with Yorkshire after 15 years to head to Essex, giving family reasons as the deciding factor.
Gough returned to the international stage in 2004, but was a shadow of his former self - save for a brief stint in South Africa in January and February 2005. Though he still harboured ambitions of playing in the 2007 World Cup, Gough's ebullient personality discovered life after cricket, when he won the BBC talent contest, Strictly Come Dancing. With his World Cup snub the international days ended, and he switched his attentions to nurturing the next generation at Yorkshire. During the second year of his two-year deal he announced it would be his last. Retirement, though, is unlikely to be too quiet.
Scyld Berry May 2008
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