JACK WILL ALWAYS TOP MY LIST OF ONE-CAP WONDERS
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.