Gareth Jon Batty
October 13, 1977, Bradford, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Gareth Batty made a remarkable return to Test cricket after an absence of more than 11 years when England summoned him, at 39, for Test tours of Bangladesh and India late in 2016. After such a long absence his roar of joy in Chattogram when Tamim Iqbal was caught behind was understandable. No English spinner had taken the new ball in the first innings of a Test since John Emburey did so against West Indies in 1988 and his first ball was, in his words, "a pie" that was cut for four, but he soon settled and took four wickets in England's victory, only to fall quickly out of favour as England's performances declined.
A feisty competitor, whether as an offspinner or a useful lower-order batsman, Batty's leadership qualities were also a great service to Surrey. He managed seven Tests and 10 ODIs for England in the first, and most substantial, stage of his England career which rarely brought him widespread recognition but added to the respect in which he was held in the game - a respect that was reflected in his surprise return, a somewhat desperate move caused by England's shortage of quality spinners.
Batty initially had to jink around to find a regular first-team spot in county cricket. Born in Bradford, he played for Yorkshire in 1997 before moving south to try his luck with Surrey. The young man then went west to Worcester, for whom he took 56 wickets with his offspin in 2002. That won him a spot at the England Academy in Adelaide in 2002-03, and the selectors sent for him as they cast around for reinforcements during that winter's injury-plagued tour of Australia. Batty played two one-day internationals in Australia, impressing with his tight lines and aggressive fielding, and with that in mind he was included in England's 14-man squad for the 2004 Champions Trophy.
Doubts persisted about whether he turned it enough to trouble Test batsmen, but he was nevertheless selected for England's trip to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2003. It was an eventful tour - he came close to drowning in a surfing accident in Galle, and at times struggled to keep his head above water with the ball. His batting against Muttiah Muralitharan, on the other hand, was a revelation, and he was instrumental in saving back-to-back Tests at Galle and Kandy. However, his chances thereafter were limited to the occasional stand-in role, most notably during the Test in Antigua when Brian Lara reached 400.
Despite consistent seasons for Worcestershire he was overtaken by other spinners, but was briefly recalled to the one-day squad to face West Indies in 2009. Not content with the ambition shown at Worcestershire he made himself available to switch counties in the 2009 summer and was snapped up on a sizeable deal by Surrey - a move that led to him being heckled by the crowd on his return to New Road.
In 2011, he played an important role part in bringing the CB40 trophy to south London, taking 13 wickets at 23.15. However, the next two years amounted to picking up the pieces. Batty assumed the captaincy when Rory Hamilton Brown took time away from the role and the game after Tom Maynard's tragic death, leading a shell-shocked dressing room with considerable dignity and helping them avoid relegation in 2012.
He was unable to repeat the trick the following year when he had to step back into the captaincy void, this time left by Graeme Smith after he succumbed to a chronic ankle injury, which ruled him out for most of the season. Surrey finished bottom of Division One, winning only one game. Their run to Finals Day was more memorable, though Batty's participation in the competition was ended by an unsavoury altercation with Peter Trego in Surrey's quarter-final against Somerset at The Oval. The ECB found him guilty of two Level Two breaches of conduct and he was subsequently banned for two games, missing the semi-final and final. Age had not dimmed Batty's competitive spirit and, in 2014, he suggested that he was bowling better than ever and could still perform a role for England. He took career best figures of 8 for 68 in his first game of the season, after an injury-ruined start, and ended with 39 wickets at 23.46 apiece. In a young side, his experience was also of great value. His no-holds-barred appealing, and passionate celebrations if a decision was given in his favour, became part of the Kennington soundtrack.
When Surrey were promoted back to Division One and reached the Royal London One-Day Cup final for three successive years from 2015-17 (beaten in all of them), Batty was still at the helm, in charge of another exciting young team. He had shepherded Surrey through some of the club's darkest days, never forgetting the past but allowing his new charges to dream of the future, and he deserved great credit for that. He had to be content with a back-seat role in the Championship triumph of 2018, as Amar Virdi broke through, but found himself back in the first-class side as a 41-year-old the following summer and earned himself a year's extension. He answered the captaincy call again in the pandemic-affected summer of 2020, leading Surrey to T20 Finals Day, where they went down to Notts in the final, before calling time a year later, with his 44th birthday approaching, in order to take up a full-time coaching role at The Oval.
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