Monday, 7 July 2008

Underrated XI

Ho hum.... it's Monday evening and no game for Derbyshire until Friday when we hopefully get our season back on track against Leicestershire.

So on the way home tonight, a twenty-five minute journey, my thoughts turned to a Derbyshire side of players that I quite liked but who, for various reasons, were never really accepted as quality cricketers. Some might jog the memory of a few of you out there maybe you might have your own ideas!

1 Tony Borrington
Now on the Derbyshire committee, Tony was a committed opening batsman who never aspired to greatness but who gave good service. A first class average of 23 and a one day average of 21 is nothing spectacular, but "Boris" always battled, a trait that seems to have transferred to his son, Paul. His best days came under Eddie Barlow.

2 Alan Hill
Bud was another transformed under Eddie Barlow, going from strokeless wonder (he made a boundary-free century in South Africa) to a solid opening batsman with a style of his own. What looked like a double backlift worked for him and a career average around 30 confirmed his progress. Eventually scored four one day centuries, astonishing for anyone who saw him early in his career

3 Bruce Roberts
A punishing right hand bat who could really hit the ball, Roberts eventually dropped from the team as he was a poor starter. If he could survive the opening half dozen overs he was a powerful driver, as well as being a steady and useful medium pace bowler. A Zimbabwean, he was also a fine fielder and had an average considerably less than his talent.

4 Rob Weston
Came to us from Durham and started to look like a really solid middle order batsman until he opted for a more lucrative offer from Middlesex where he flopped and left the first class scene. Another poor starter, but when he got going he sold his wicket dearly, as shown by 7 hundreds and 9 fifties in his career

5 Ashley Harvey-Walker
Averaged only 23 in his career and one of the worst starters of all, but he hit the ball with amazing power with a bat that was one of the heaviest on the circuit. In the pre-Barlow era, he and Chris Wilkins were just about the only two batsmen who were really good hitters of the ball.
Useful spinner who died tragically young.

6 Matt Cassar
Only 35 and should have been a fixture in the side for years. Still scores stacks of runs in the leagues and was a fine hitter and aggressive medium pacer. Another to leave for greener pastures elsewhere, only to find in a reverse Midas touch that everything he touched crocked him. Tragic waste of an exciting talent that should have done so much better, as he could turn games quickly with bat and ball.

7 Fred Swarbrook
6000 runs at 21 and 460 wickets at 30 suggest a player of ability, yet Fred was a talent unfulfilled who got the yips just as he was suggesting he could form a great spin pairing with Geoff Miller. A cross between a Toby Jug and Mr Pickwick, Fred gave hope to ungainly players everywhere that they could be a player. Later a good coach in South Africa, he was a real 100% player.

8 Ian Bishop
My overseas player. Bish could have been one of the greats, but a series of back injuries curtailed what would have been a great career. Alarmingly quick with a wonderful action, his entire first class career was only 159 matches in which he took nearly 550 wickets at 23. Good batsman who would have been an all rounder, given time. Lovely, unassuming bloke too.

9 Colin Tunnicliffe
300 wickets at 32 for the left arm seamer who was a fine and underrated foil for Mike Hendrick, a good safe fielder and a batsman who will be remembered as a good hitter and for his Lords heroics. Tunners was a solid pro who never hit the heights but who became a good county cricketer under Eddie Barlow

10 Paul Newman
Looked set for an England call-up when he first burst on the scene as a bowler who could be deceptively quick. Injuries forced him to curtail his pace, and 300 wickets at 30 left him similar to Tunnicliffe as a steady if not spectacular player. Useful batsman too, who just might have hit the heights had injury not hit.

11 Alan Ward
Seriously quick bowler, probably the fastest we ever had outwith imports. For 3-4 years he looked a world beater between injuries, but they eventually, real or imagined, destroyed his career. 460 wickets at 22 shows his talent, but he should have easily topped four figures given a decent back, groin, hamstrings, achilles tendons and more. When he got it right, batsmen didn't want to know, but it became all too rare an occurrence

12 Bob Swindell
Who? 50 wickets at 33 in 23 matches, including four 5-wicket hauls. Swindell was a prodigious off spinner who looked a great talent, so we signed Venkat to "mentor" him. Thing was Venkat got choice of ends when they both played and the one spinner place most of the time. Then Geoff Miller came along and he could bat, so...
Still rate him the best young spinner (after Miller) we have produced in my time watching the game and he was gone from cricket by the age of 27. Ridiculous really.

So there you have it, my squad. No world-beating side (the bowlers would never all be fit) but guys who could cut it on their day. If they all played, we'd scramble to 147 all out as an average, but on the games when Ward and Bishop played together would still win...

See you tomorrow!

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