Alan Ward: on his day, one of the fastest English bowlers of his generation © The Cricketer

Instances of players being ordered from the field are rare - before 1973 there had been only two recorded occurrences* - but that year Alan Ward, a fast bowler who played five Tests for England, suffered such an ignominy.

Ward was genuinely quick, and was reckoned to be one of England's most promising prospects when he was selected, alongside John Snow, to spearhead the bowling on Ray Illingworth's Ashes tour of 1970-71. But whereas that ultimately successful trip greatly enhanced Snow's reputation, Ward hardly fired a shot in anger, injury causing him to return home early in the tour. A potent combination of a fragile body and a suspect temperament meant that his career never really got off the ground.

At county level, Ward was not aided by having to lead a weak Derbyshire attack on their featherbed pitches, but he was also gaining a reputation for a fragile temperament, as well as a brittle body. In 1972 he played only eight first-class matches, including one for MCC against the Australians, but a pulled muscle kept him out for most of the season. Wisden noted that there "appeared to be mental as well as physical barriers", adding that a change of captain might lead to a change of fortune.

But 1973 turned out to be even worse. At the start of the summer, Ward managed only seven wickets in six matches, and then, on a Monday afternoon at Chesterfield, the wheels finally came off.

Derbyshire were bowled out before lunch on that second day for 311 - Ward, at No. 9, made a duck - and although he removed Geoff Boycott for 4 in the first over of Yorkshire's reply, he was spraying the ball all over the place and also sent down nine no-balls. His mood was not helped when John Hampshire was missed by Harry Cartwright in the slips before he had scored - Hampshire then launched a stinging assault on Ward, taking 19 off one over immediately after the interval.

Ward retired to lick his wounds, and shortly after tea Brain Bolus, Derbyshire's captain, summoned him back into the attack. But Ward refused to bowl, blaming a combination of a lack of confidence, his no-ball problem, and also a lack of rhythm in his run-up.

Bolus clearly had an inclining of what might happen as, according to John Shawcroft in his excellent History of Derbyshire CCC, he had left the field shortly before this to speak with Derbyshire's secretary. Faced with Ward's refusal, Bolus waved him off the field. "When Brian asked me to bowl, something exploded inside me," Ward recalled later. "I couldn't go on. People will never understand, but all I wanted to do was to get off the pitch."

Mike Brearley, the captain of MIddlesex at the time, wrote about the incident in his end-of-season diary for The Cricketer: "It was, I believe, the sad culmination of a situation in which Ward had become increasingly doubtful about his ability and almost pathologically afraid to bowl. One irony, of course, was that many a batsman was equally terrified."

Ward apologised before the close, and had left the ground before the end of play - but after three days of rumination, he announced his retirement at the age of 25. His contract with Derbyshire was cancelled by mutual agreement.

But just five months later he returned, seemingly restored both mentally and physically. He had a new one-year contract, was raring to go for the start of the 1974 season, and enjoyed one of his best summers with 56 wickets at 20.96. In 1976 he made the last of his five Test appearances, when England suffered an injury crisis and he was drafted into the side for the Headingley Test against a rampant West Indies. He took four wickets, and also earned a standing ovation for a duck in a defiant ninth-wicket stand of 46 with Tony Greig. Almost inevitably, though, he missed the final Test through injury.

By then, still only 28, he had moved to Leicestershire, but after one more full season, he quit soon after the start of the 1978 season, his early promise largely unfulfilled.

* Lord Hawke banished Bobby Peel from a Yorkshire match in 1897, and Lionel Tennyson expelled Jack Newman of Hampshire in 1922.

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History of Derbyshire CCC John Shawcroft (Helm, 1989)
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1974
The Cricketer Various 1973

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo