December 06, 1949, Sedgefield, Co Durham
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
Middle order Batter
Seaham Secondary School, Co Durham
There was a time in the late seventies and early eighties when, if England were playing the West Indies at the peak of their dominance of world cricket, that Peter Willey could pack his bag ready for the call to the Test side. A hard, fearless man from the north-east, he made 15 of his 26 Test appearances against the West Indies and 13 of his 26 one-day internationals against the same opposition. The rest of his one-day internationals were against Australia, as were nine of his Tests. He did not have many easy opportunities to bolster his average.
In fairness, he wasn't quite good enough as a specialist batsman, and his bowling not penetrative enough to make him a genuine allrounder. But his courage was beyond question, and his two Test hundreds, both against West Indies, were made when others had proved less stubborn in the face of a pace battering. That he was seen as a back-against-the-wall specialist is shown by the fact that 15 of his 26 Tests and 13 of his 26 one-dayers came against West Indies in their prime - all but two of the other Tests and ODIs came against Australia. In those two Tests - against India and New Zealand - he averaged over 40. And it was an era when England struggled - he had to wait until his 19th Test (Botham's match of 1981) before he was on a winning side.
He made his county debut for Northamptonshire in 1966 at the age of 16 as a right-handed batsman and offbreak bowler. As his career developed, he adopted what might be termed a marvellously eccentric batting stance, starting with his body totally chest-on to the bowler.
His performances attracted the England selectors and in 1976 he made his Test debut against the West Indies at Headingley. The following year he made his one-day international debut against Australia and he appeared to have the makings of a long and successful international career. However, the selectors seldom gave him a run long enough to establish himself in the team and, instead, tended to use him as the scapegoat for team failings. There were always others who might have been no more successful but who perhaps looked more the part of a Test cricketer.
He moved to Leicestershire in 1984, captaining the county in 1987, and continued his playing career through to 1991, after which he played a season of Minor Counties cricket for Northumberland.
He was appointed to the first-class umpires' list in 1993 and three years
later was on the international panel. It was ironic that the first Test in
which he stood was West Indies v New Zealand in Bridgetown - the countries
against which he appeared in his first and last Tests as a player. Generally respected as a top umpire, he declined the opportunity to go onto the ICC list of elite umpires because of the excessive time that would have taken him away from home, but his standing in the international game and his experience from the 1999 event made him an obvious choice when the elite list needed supplementing for the 2003 World Cup.
Wisden Cricinfo staff
Batting & Fielding
Umpire & Referee