JACK WILL AL­WAYS TOP MY LIST OF ONE-CAP WON­DERS

The Cricket Paper - - OPINION -

The hang­dog ex­pres­sion and the drooped shoul­ders were essen­tial in­gre­di­ents in Gra­ham Gooch’s de­fault pub­lic im­age, but on the rare oc­ca­sions he al­lowed him­self to re­lax dur­ing his play­ing days, you dis­cov­ered a ge­nial com­pan­ion with a nice line in dry wit. Hence, when he was once asked what advice he would give to a young bats­man mak­ing his de­but for Eng­land, Gooch replied: “I’d tell him to get more runs than I did.”

One nur­dle down to fine leg for a sin­gle would have bet­tered Gooch’s 0 and 0 (caught Marsh, caught Marsh) against Aus­tralia at Edg­bas­ton in 1975, the first man to bag ’em, as the ex­pres­sion goes, on his Eng­land de­but since one of the Grace broth­ers – Fred – also against Aus­tralia in 1880.

Un­like Fred, Gooch man­aged to avoid join­ing a fairly long list of Eng­land one cap won­ders – al­though the for­mer was a tad un­lucky given that he died of pneu­mo­nia be­fore the se­lec­tors could de­cide whether or not to give him an­other go. Gooch ac­tu­ally played an­other 117 Tests, and when he even­tu­ally got off the mark, it turned out to be the first of 8,900 runs.

It is not in­con­ceiv­able, though, that had he played in a slightly later era, when Eng­land se­lec­tors were a bit like those tal­ent show pan­el­lists abruptly cut­ting short a dire au­di­tion – “Next!” – Gooch might have joined a club that ac­tu­ally has its own mem­ber­ship and tie. It was started by a for­mer Es­sex team-mate John Stephen­son, now the MCC’s di­rec­tor of cricket, who opened the bat­ting with Gooch against Aus­tralia in 1989 and was never seen in a Test match again.

Open­ing with Gooch was cricket’s equiv­a­lent of a WW2 Spit­fire pi­lot, long on glam­our but short on life ex­pectancy. Stephen­son, or Stan as he’s known, was one of 29 play­ers used by Eng­land dur­ing that 1989 home Ashes se­ries, and if they ever de­cide to have a re­union din­ner, they’ll need to hire a pretty big room.

The one-cap won­der club is not only made up of play­ers who make you won­der where they dis­ap­peared to, but sev­eral more who make you won­der where on earth they came from. The best ex­am­ple be­ing Dar­ren Pat­tin­son, whose ap­pear­ance in the sec­ond Test against South Africa in 2008 made you won­der whether it was the re­sult of some kind of raf­fle.

“Fill in this Tesco cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey, and en­ter our prize draw for the chance to play cricket for Eng­land.”

Gooch him­self, a man not given to hy­per­bole, de­scribed it as “one of the most left-field de­ci­sions I’ve ever seen,” which is quite a state­ment given the level of com­pe­ti­tion in the area of left-field selec­tions. In­clud­ing the likes of Mike Smith, Alan Wells, Joey Ben­jamin, and Gavin Hamil­ton.

Wells’ one and only Test was against the West Indies at the Oval in 1995, when he was out first ball to Curtly Am­brose in the first in­nings, and made 3 in the sec­ond. Smith was se­lected against Aus­tralia at Head­in­g­ley in 1997, tak­ing 0-89, and re­mem­bered only for Gra­ham Thorpe de­priv­ing him of the wicket of Matthew El­liot with a dread­ful dropped catch at sec­ond slip.

Ben­jamin’s one Test came against South Africa at the Oval in 1994, and an okay per­for­mance got slightly lost in the wash by a fired-up Devon Malcolm tak­ing 9-47 after be­ing hit on the hel­met while bat­ting. Hamil­ton’s sin­gle Test was also against South Africa, in Jo­han­nes­burg in 1999, and it would prob­a­bly be fair to say that – in mak­ing 0 and 0 with the bat, and tak­ing 0-63 with the ball – didn’t make an ir­re­sistible case for an­other tilt at be­com­ing the new Ian Botham.

Lloyd and Hamil­ton can fight it out for sil­ver and bronze as MacBryan was the only player who never bat­ted, bowled or took a catch

It was Botham’s ab­sence through a rib strain which gave the cur­rent na­tional se­lec­tor James Whi­taker the chance to join the one-cap won­der club in Ade­laide in 1986, and there are a few more play­ers who owed brief Eng­land ca­reers to ill­ness or in­jury. Such as Steve Watkin, whose de­but against the West Indies in 1991 was the re­sult of Chris Lewis with­draw­ing on the morn­ing of the match.

You al­ways had a good chance of a game if you were in the same squad as Lewis, whose list of rea­sons for with­draw­ing from the side in­cluded heavy legs, a cir­cu­la­tion dis­or­der, sun­stroke, and two mi­graines. He also got him­self dropped after ar­riv­ing late at the Oval and claim­ing a punc­ture.

Watkin ac­tu­ally had three Tests be­fore be­ing dis­carded, and there are plenty in the cat­e­gory of play­ing just two or three times. Hugh Mor­ris had the mis­for­tune to play all three of his Tests against the West Indies pace at­tack of 1991, while Mark Lath­well’s brief Test ca­reer – two caps against Aus­tralia in 1993 – was more a fail­ure of tem­per­a­ment. He fi­nally gave the game up as “too much of a strain”.

An­other player to pop in and pop out again was Martin McCague, who played three Tests against Aus­tralia be­tween 1993 and 1994. Born in North­ern Ire­land, but raised in Aus­tralia, and play­ing for an Eng­land side get­ting reg­u­larly thumped in Ashes se­ries, McCague be­came known as the “only known ex­am­ple of a rat join­ing a sink­ing ship”. In those three Tests he took six wick­ets, at an av­er­age – 65 – that was seven less than the num­ber of pints of Guin­ness he was al­leged to have put away (ac­cord­ing to a book penned by a Kent team-mate) on his stag week­end in Dublin.

But we ought to fin­ish with the gen­uine one-cap­pers, and vote for the Eng­land player who contributed least in his only ap­pear­ance. Hamil­ton, at first glance, looks like a shoo-in, but at least his modest con­tri­bu­tion in­volved plenty of time on the field, un­like Andy Lloyd, who spent all but half an hour in hospi­tal after be­ing crusted by Malcolm Mar­shall on his home ground at Edg­bas­ton in 1984. Leav­ing Lloyd with the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only open­ing bats­man never dis­missed in his Test ca­reer.

How­ever, we can safely leave those two to fight it out for sil­ver and bronze, while award­ing the gold medal to Jack MacBryan, of Som­er­set. Jack played against South Africa in the Old Traf­ford Test of 1924, and Manch­ester be­ing Manch­ester, it rained. And rained. They did squeeze in about half a day’s worth of play, but at the end of it all Jack was left with the unique legacy of be­ing the only Test crick­eter in history who never bat­ted, never bowled, and never took a catch.

MARTIN JOHN­SON

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