An appreciation of Guptill's 227 by David Griffin

Friday 1st May 2015
& News
Written by Danny Painter

Derbyshire Vice President David Griffin looks back at Martin Guptill’s 227 in the recent LV= County Championship win over Gloucestershire and ranks it amongst the best innings in Derbyshire history.

Just 29 players are responsible for the 48 double hundreds scored by Derbyshire players since the first – and highest – by George Davidson in 1896.

Having seen almost two thirds of those double hundreds, my mind wandered back over the course of watching Martin Guptill destroy the Gloucestershire attack last Monday at Bristol to some of the other great doubles and tried to gauge where Guptill’s innings would appear in some mythical roll of honour of Derbyshire double centurions.

One of the problems with sport – and, I guess, life in general, is that we all own a pair of rose-tinted spectacles which tend to see us favouring our youth, or our heroes, or both.

My first experience of a double hundred was Eddie Barlow’s career-best 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston in 1976. I was just 14 and Barlow was my cricketing hero, so is it possible to consider his innings objectively?

Well, he faced a bowling attack consisting of 4 Test match bowlers in Jackman, Arnold, Pocock and Intikhab, and he scored 138 runs between lunch and tea in what I recall as a quite withering assault on the Surrey attack as Derbyshire defeated a side which also contained 4 Test batsmen by four wickets.

And the 1977 Derbyshire Year Book match report stated that; “…No spectator could recall having seen a finer innings than this…”

However, there are many more examples of outstanding double hundreds, not least the 229 by John Morris at Cheltenham on a fast and bouncy pitch against Courtney Walsh and David Lawrence in 1993; Kim Barnett’s 210 against Yorkshire at Derby in 1997 as part of a record 417-run 2nd wicket partnership; Mohammad Azharrudin’s 205 at Chesterfield against Durham including 6 sixes in 1994; and Chris Rogers’ 200 at The Oval in 2010 in the opening game of the season.

Peter Kirsten holds the Derbyshire record, scoring 6 doubles of which, astonishingly, 5 were not out. No Derbyshire batsman has scored a triple century but Kirsten played at a time when there was a tiresome first innings limitation on overs, otherwise he would surely have reached 300.

Kirsten was a remarkable player who scored just 3 hundreds in his first two seasons with Derbyshire, but went on to score 17 in the next three. He had remarkable powers of concentration and scored his runs very quickly.

My personal favourite was his undefeated 213 against Glamorgan at Derby in 1980 when in partnership with John Walters, the pair added 127 runs in an hour of which Walters’ share was just 20. Gerald Mortimer, in the Derby Telegraph wrote that during this partnership, Kirsten “…simply made the game up as he went along…”

Mortimer described Kirsten as a genius and team mate David Steele christened him ‘The Don’ after the greatest of all batsmen.

Whilst it’s difficult to choose the best of anything in cricket, when styles, context and eras have to be considered, I don’t think I’ve seen a better batsman play for Derbyshire than the Indian, Mohammad Azharrudin. It’s a close call between him and Kirsten, but in Azharrudin’s first season at Derbyshire in 1991, he was quite simply imperious.

His above-mentioned 205 against Durham at Chesterfield was described by one of his opponents, David Graveney, as the finest innings he had seen in twenty years of playing county cricket.

My recollection is of Azha being dropped first ball, and then trying to clear the legside boundary for most of his innings, actually depositing one six, first bounce, into the Queen’s Park lake.

In the 21st century, double hundreds have been scored almost exclusively by players born outside the United Kingdom. Dominic Cork is the exception, making a superb 200 not out against Durham at Derby in 2000 batting – astonishingly – at number eight and taking part in a record seventh wicket partnership of 258.

Chris Rogers scored 4 doubles – matching Barnett – and his fellow Australians Divenuto (2) and Katich (in the 801-8 runfest at Taunton in 2007) all made excellent doubles, while Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes scored the two most recent, prior to Guptill’s effort.

Hughes was unfortunate to miss out on the individual high score record of 274, being left stranded on 270 not out at Leeds in 2013, an innings of great resilience and concentration. He batted circumspectly during the first session before playing more expansively during the afternoon, unleashing his trademark drives through the offside, powerful pulls through mid-wicket and huge, lofted drives over long on and long off. He tired during the final session but seemed determined to see off the second new ball in readiness for the second day. Sadly, he ran out of partners but his 270 remains the second highest individual score in Derbyshire’s history.

Madsen’s 231 against Northamptonshire in 2012 came after he had suffered an injury earlier in the game and Derbyshire were in some difficulty when he arrived at the crease. Along with Tom Poynton, the ninth-wicket partnership added 261 runs, the third-highest in the history of the game. This was one of Madsen’s most fluent innings, with his trademark drives square of the wicket to the fore.

This was Derbyshire’s 2nd division promotion-winning season and after Northamptonshire had made 400 in their first innings, Derbyshire had slumped to 164-6 and were on the verge of a possible defeat that would have seriously hampered their promotion drive. Madsen’s eight and a half hour marathon ensured that his side secured a crucial draw.

And so to Guptill.

Gloucestershire had made 275 in their first innings and Derbyshire made steady progress through Slater and Godleman before Guptill strode to the middle. Over the course of the next 4 hours, Guptill played the most powerful and dynamic innings I’ve ever seen.

All the Gloucestershire bowlers suffered, as did the boundary boards, and one of his eleven sixes cleared the 4-storey Bristol Pavilion and is probably now nestling in someone’s garden.

None of his sixes were close calls – every one sailed over the boundary as he added 29 fours as well.

But this was not just muscular hitting – by his own admission, the occasional ball wasn’t hit out of the middle – but it was an innings of great power, timing, style and sheer brilliance.

Posterity will possibly suggest that the attack wasn’t of the highest quality, but no other player looked remotely capable of playing this sort of innings on a pitch which was generally quite helpful to the seam bowlers, and most observers amongst the small crowd fully expected the Derbyshire individual score of 274 to be surpassed as Guptill smashed his way past 200 in just 165 balls, the 13th fastest double ton in the history of the game.

When he fell for 227, there was an audible groan amongst the spectators – apart from the Gloucestershire partisans – who wanted the carnage to continue, and the standing ovation he received as he left the field was fully deserved.

So, where does it rank?

Well, for sheer power, only Chris Adams at his best could have played this type of innings for Derbyshire. Guptill sets himself low in his stance and has a wonderful capacity to almost get underneath the ball as he drives it straight over the boundary, or alternatively, stands tall to pull the ball powerfully, or uppercut it for 6 over the cover boundary.

He impressed with his dynamic and attacking style during his previous spells with Derbyshire, but he has taken his batting skills to another level – probably as a result of his exploits with the New Zealand side who played such a marvellous brand of cricket in the recent World Cup.

Similarly, the ‘wow’ factor, that almost indefinable something that takes your breath away when you witness it, was very much at the heart of this innings. Just when he struck a six over the pavilion and you thought you’d seen the shot of the day, he went to the other end and hit one even higher and farther.

Add the palpable sense of disappointment amongst the crowd – and journalists – that the innings had ended when most observers just wanted to continue watching such quality batsmanship, and I think I was very fortunate to see one of the great innings by a Derbyshire player.

Finally, this was a true match-winnings innings; Guptill took the game away from Gloucestershire at a time when the match was evenly-balanced and Derbyshire were always in the driving seat thereafter.

Those rose-tinted glasses will always point me to Barlow, Kirsten and Azharrudin when I try to evaluate the best double century for Derbyshire, but nevertheless, I have to concede that I don’t think I’ve seen a finer double for Derbyshire than Guptill’s.

Martin’s time with Derbyshire in 2015 is restricted by his international commitments, but few who were there will forget an innings touched with genius this week at Bristol.

Words and photography by David Griffin

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