David John Grimwood Sales
December 03, 1977, Carshalton, Surrey
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
The hard-hitting David Sales was a precocious talent, his first-class career beginning in spectacular fashion when he cracked 210 not out against Worcestershire in 1996 aged 18 - the youngest person to score a Championship double hundred. The appearance of a young cricketer with potential for destruction excited predictions of an international career, but it never quite worked out. He had a long, and at times fruitful, county career, and was highly watchable when in full flow, but a first-class average below 40 was perhaps a cause for regret.
Sales was forced into retirement by ankle trouble, his final season proving to be an unrewarding one as he managed only three Championship matches and Northants, newly promoted, finished bottom of Division One by a considerable margin. He could point to 577 matches and nearly 23,000 runs in all competitions, spread over 19 seasons. He never did play for England - the Lions was as close as he got - a fact he admitted he regretted, but he served his county well and the game was a little duller for his retirement. Northants' head coach David Ripley gave him a generous tribute. "Jumble's retirement signals the end of an era at Northants," he said. "He was an international class batsman, top slip fielder, astute cricket brain and humorous contributor to dressing room banter."
For a couple of seasons after his notable start, he frustrated even his most ardent supporters with inconsistency and mediocre returns. In 1999 he finally broke through, scoring 1291 runs at 51.64, and in 2000-01 he went to the Caribbean with the England A side. It wasn't a happy experience - he sustained a serious knee injury playing beach volleyball after a good start to the tour and missed the entire 2001 season. He returned, but not exactly with a bang, in 2002, but again showed his better side in 2003 when he narrowly missed out on 1000 runs. He was appointed county captain for the 2004 season, a role he held until stepping down in 2010.
Even in his mid-thirties, Sales remained a prized scalp for county bowlers, with his buccaneering strokeplay capable of enriching any afternoon. He toyed with leaving the county, Northants toyed with putting him out to pasture, neither quite occurred. But a first-class average just the wrong side of 40 spoke of a somewhat unfulfilled talent - and explains why, despite years of speculation, he never quite earned an England cap.
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