Matthew Thomas Coles
May 26, 1990, Maidstone, Kent
Left hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Matt Coles is a powerfully-built allrounder with a roistering reputation and a career studded with controversy and a growing assumption that he would never achieve the heights that had once been hoped for him.
Coles was picked for the England Lions tour of Australia at the start of 2013 after making great strides the previous season - a summer in which he made a maiden Championship century against Yorkshire at Headingley, reaching the landmark with a reverse sweep for six against Adil Rashid, and also took 52 wickets at 22.03. But his chance with the Lions proved a disaster; after playing three of the first four matches of the tour, Coles was sent home for a second breach of discipline along with Ben Stokes, too many late, boozy nights being the prime issue. Within a year, Stokes had a maiden Test hundred - an Ashes hundred, too - to his name, but Coles found no easy rewards.
Initially, he returned to Kent but with his England ambitions still high he refused to sign a new contract for a county labouring in Division Two and went on loan to Hampshire towards the end of the 2013 season. His 21 wickets at 24 in five matches, including a career-best 10 for 154 in the final match of the season against Essex, was enough to earn him a three-year deal.
A year later he played a solid hand in helping Hampshire return to Division One, taking 41 wickets at 28.41 as Hampshire gained promotion but he struggled to settle away from friends and family in his home town of Maidstone and conceded a chance to impress back in Division One of the County Championship and perhaps attract the England selectors once more One year into a three-year deal, he returned once more to Kent where the club captain Rob Key was held to be a good friend and a civilising influence.
His 67 wickets at 23.49 in Division Two spoke of a cricketer happy in his work again and he also summoned one of the most defiant, big-hitting innings of the season as Kent went down to Surrey in the Royal London Cup quarter-final at The Oval. Kent were 101 for 7, their target of 274 an irrelevance, but Coles' struck 100 from 43 balls - his first List A ton - to leave them 18 runs short. "It's so frustrating - I only needed three more hits," he said.
Key then retired shortly ahead of the 2016 season and, in the absence of his mentor, Coles' turbulent career took another downturn as Kent had to deal with his drunken conduct during a Championship match in Cardiff. He was excluded from the Kent side for a month without a proper public explanation and told to sort out his fitness and his drinking issues. He had already been banned by the ECB for two matches for throwing the ball at an opponent in a match against Glamorgan in Canterbury in early May.
No matter. Essex, freshly anointed as champions, decided to take a punt on his latent talent ahead of the 2018 season. Coles left Kent for a second time, proclaiming "I need to push myself to be as good as I can be" and whilst that sounded like sound advice to self, at 27, his 32 Championship wickets at 41.03 in his farewell season, plus equally modest returns in limited-overs formats, pointed to the fact that there was work to do. His first season for Essex proved to be a total non-event.
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