LET’S TOAST FOR­GOT­TEN MEN FROM BOTHAM’S SUM­MER

The Cricket Paper - - OPINION - DEREK PRINGLE

It was the big­gest oc­ca­sion of its kind, an at­tempt to get all liv­ing Eng­land crick­eters male, fe­male and dis­abled to a din­ner at Lord’s to cel­e­brate just be­ing part of a spe­cial club. Not ev­ery in­ter­na­tional player still alive at­tended but the turn-out last Tues­day evening in the Nurs­ery Pav­il­ion, of over 220, was im­pres­sive. Speeches were kept to a min­i­mum and the gen­eral buzz in the room sug­gested the event, the brain­child of An­drew Strauss, ECB’s di­rec­tor of Eng­land cricket, was a great suc­cess.

One crit­i­cism, per­haps in­evitable given the body of his­tory ac­crued by the men’s game as com­pared to that of women’s cricket or dis­abil­ity cricket, was that most of the sto­ries and fea­tures dur­ing the evening, though not ex­clu­sively, cel­e­brated the former.

Al­though that will be re­dressed, nat­u­rally, some felt in­clu­siv­ity must be ab­so­lute and not some­thing won over time.

It wasn’t just that which irked, ei­ther. The dress code on the in­vi­ta­tion was jacket or Eng­land blazer, and tie, some­thing most of the women play­ers ig­nored with un­der­stand­able dis­dain. But then only half the men in at­ten­dance could still squeeze into the Eng­land blaz­ers they were awarded on de­but, the other half favour­ing the roomier com­fort of a favourite suit.

Sar­to­rial dif­fer­ences were equalised dur­ing the evening when ev­ery player was pre­sented with a spe­cial tas­seled cap bear­ing their name and the num­ber Eng­land player they were in Test, ODI and T20 cricket.

Hav­ing never played T20, my num­bers were 495 and 66 though the cap size was in­de­ter­mi­nate.

Catch­ing up with team-mates one has not seen for a quar­ter of a cen­tury, or longer in some cases, was a cu­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence. Al­though the com­mon thread of rep­re­sent­ing Eng­land is a pow­er­ful one, many have moved on and away from the game mak­ing some en­coun­ters awk­ward.

Gen­er­ally, old ri­val­ries and slights were for­got­ten, the gen­er­ous amounts of so­cial lu­bri­cant on of­fer en­sur­ing good­na­tured bon­homie.

The day af­ter the din­ner I showed the list of at­ten­dees to a friend, a cricket fan of some 45 years. What pricked his in­ter­est were not the big names who at­tended like Ian Botham, Gra­ham Gooch, David Gower and Mike Brear­ley, but those he’d com­pletely for­got­ten had played for Eng­land be­gin­ning with two former play­ers on my table, Ge­off Humpage and Jim Love.

The pair each played three one-day in­ter­na­tion­als, both of them mak­ing their de­buts in the same match and series against Aus­tralia in 1981. That was to be­come Botham’s sum­mer, even­tu­ally, though Eng­land lost that one-day series 2-1 so the bac­cha­nal had not yet be­gun.

Love, a hard-hit­ting York­shire­man, made 43 in one in­nings bat­ting at five, but that was the pin­na­cle for both of them though Humpage, who kept wicket and bat­ted eight, did take two catches.

It was not the vogue then to bat deep but hav­ing Humpage at eight, with Botham at seven, did seem a waste sug­gest­ing an un­bal­anced side.

Nei­ther Love nor Humpage ever played for Eng­land again af­ter that series, which given Humpage’s un­fet­tered ball-strik­ing for War­wick­shire was un­lucky on him.

So many peo­ple think quick-scor­ing ar­rived with T20 but Humpage liked to see the ball dis­ap­pear as fre­quently as pos­si­ble, par­tic­u­larly over mid-wicket.

In a 40-over Sun­day League match against Es­sex in 1982, at Colchester’s Cas­tle Park, his quick­fire 74 off 58 balls con­trib­uted to a fa­mous vic­tory for War­wick­shire af­ter they chased down 299 with three balls to spare.

Be­tween the in­nings, Humpage struck a bet with an Es­sex sup­porter for a bot­tle of brandy that War­wick­shire would get the runs, a bot­tle he and oth­ers sub­se­quently drained be­fore clos­ing time.

You might have thought my mate would have strug­gled to re­call the odd one-cap won­der but due to their sole ap­pear­ances, and the hard luck sto­ries that ac­com­pany some of them, they have ac­quired a celebrity that tends to stick in the mem­ory.

In­stead, it is the player that has notched up three to 10 caps who can be hard­est to re­mem­ber, like Vince Wells, an all-rounder who rep­re­sented Kent, Le­ices­ter­shire and Durham, and who played nine one-day in­ter­na­tion­als for Eng­land in 1999.

Cu­ri­ously, for a crick­eter whose bowl­ing was a very English seam up, Wells never played any of his in­ter­na­tion­als at home, his games com­ing in Aus­tralia and Shar­jah.

With a top score of 39 and a bowl­ing best of 3-30 he was picked for Eng­land’s World Cup squad that same year but did not play a sin­gle game. There­after, he re­turned to county cricket for an­other four years, mak­ing his fi­nal ap­pear­ance for Durham in 2003.

One puz­zle of the women’s game is De­bra Stock, an off-spin­ner who played be­tween 1991-96. The rea­son I was keen to speak with her is that I played against

It is the player that has notched up three to ten caps who can be the hard­est to re­mem­ber

an Eng­land Women’s side which in­cluded Stock back in 1994 at Windsor Cas­tle, and was im­pressed.

What struck me about her, com­pared to many women spin­ners of the time, was the way she wrapped her fin­gers round the ball and gave it a rip, at a good pace.

That spin and con­trol en­abled her to take 7-27 at Jamshed­pur in a Test against In­dia, but that haul stood out like a stark peak over her short ca­reer. In the six other Tests and 15 ODIs that she played, Stock took just 21 wick­ets.

Per­haps her pen­chant for a pint and a fag, like Phil Tufnell, counted against her though the women’s game was am­a­teur back then and such foibles were surely not held against play­ers.

I had hoped to find out but al­though Stock was down to at­tend the din­ner she – ever the enigma it seems – failed to turn up.

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