Derek William Randall
February 24, 1951, Retford, Nottinghamshire
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Sir Frederick Milner Secondary Modern School
No photograph in cricket better captures the nature of its subject than that of Derek Randall, apparently standing motionless at attention in the batting crease, acknowledging a Dennis Lillee bouncer by doffing his cap. But even then the picture tells nothing of the astonishing agility of "Arkle": a split-second earlier, as the ball screeched overhead, he had been on his haunches three feet clear of any danger. A hyperactive cover fieldsman, who was often actually galloping in as the bowler reached the crease, Randall, in a day's fielding, habitually saved 20 runs through quicksilver interceptions and the safe singles his mobility inhibited. As a batsman he was in David Gower's class when it came to timing a cover-drive, but he was a twitchy starter, especially when there was movement for the seamers, and was at his most effective at No. 5 or 6.
It was said of Derek Randall that he could catch swallows. Watching him patrolling the covers, you could almost believe it. It was his anticipation and speed over the ground rather than strength of arm that made him such a wonderful fielder - he would often run batsmen out simply by outpacing them to the wicket and whipping off the bails. With Randall on one side of the wicket and David Gower on the other, few batsmen chanced quick singles against England.
But there was more to Randall than his fielding. There was his spectacular, eccentric batting too. His Test record of 2,470 runs in 47 matches at an average of just over 33 betrays a lack of consistency, but when he was good, he was very, very good. There was his match-winning knock at Sydney in 1978-79 when, with England trailing after the first innings by 142 runs, Randall held the second innings together with a magnificent 150. But that was against an Australian side depleted by the Packer ban. On a different plain altogether was his 174 in 1977 in the Centenary Test against a strong Australia side at Melbourne. With England chasing an improbable 463 to win, Randall took them unbelievably close - doffing his cap to the mighty Dennis Lillee in the process after just evading a bouncer - but in the end their valiant chase fell 46 runs short.
Randall, known as Arkle after the racehorse, was seldom far from the drama. His lightning run-out of Rick McCosker in the Test when England clinched the Ashes at Headingley in 1977 amazed all who witnessed it. And in the previous Test at his home ground of Trent Bridge he had been ridiculously run out himself, stranded by Geoffrey Boycott at the other end. Boycott went on to make amends by hitting his 99th first-class century, followed by his 100th at Leeds in the next game. In the one-day game, Randall's fielding came even more to the fore and he became a one-day regular, playing in the World Cup Final defeat at the hands of the West Indies at Lord's in 1979.
In Randall's Nottinghamshire career, which lasted from 1972 to 1983, he
hit 1,000 runs in a season eight times and scored two double centuries. His
highest score of 209 against Middlesex in 1979 was accompanied by 146 in the
same game. Even at the ripe old age of 49, he was turning out for Suffolk in
the 2000 season and played in the NatWest Trophy. He finally hung up his bat in 2001, aged 50. He was also coach of Cambridge University.
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