As Derbyshire looks to welcome Logan van Beek from New Zealand, and later in the summer, Kane Richardson from Australia, Heritage Officer, David Griffin, takes a look at the other players from the Southern Hemisphere who preceded them at the club.
The New Zealand connection began in 1977 when John Wright arrived as a callow 22-year-old, and although considered promising, had played just 12 first-class games before he made his debut for Derbyshire.
In an era where counties generally recruited well-established international cricketers, Derbyshire were seen to be taking a huge gamble when Eddie Barlow encouraged his signing in the winter of 1976. However, Wright established himself as one of the finest batsmen in the county’s history, scoring 27 first-class hundreds – only three players have scored more, and a total in all formats of 14,969 runs, placing him in ninth position in Derbyshire’s all-time run-scoring list.
His Derbyshire career ended at the end of 1988, having received a benefit and becoming the longest-serving overseas player ever engaged by the county.
He was a fine batsman and an excellent fielder, capable of obdurate, defensive batting when required, but also a classy and dynamic player on other occasions.
Many who were present at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield in May 1980 when the mighty West Indians were the opponents, consider Wright’s 96 in the face of some outstanding fast bowling by Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, as one of the finest innings in the county’s history.
No other Derbyshire player scored more than 31 and captain, Geoff Miller, considered the physical danger was so great to his players from the fearsome West Indian quick bowlers on a well-grassed pitch, that he seriously considered declaring at lunch on the first day of the game.
Wright’s most famous day in Derbyshire colours was undoubtedly the NatWest Trophy Final win at Lord’s in September 1981, when his century partnership with Peter Kirsten helped Derbyshire to a famous victory.
In 1982, Wright scored 7 first class centuries, a record only bettered by Kirsten, who scored eight in the same season.
It would be a further 15 years following Wright’s departure before another New Zealander played for the county.
Chris Harris was signed to play in just four List A games at the tail-end of the 2003 season, featuring in 45-overs per side National League fixtures, and scoring a modest 30 runs and taking four wickets.
Martin Guptill signalled his arrival in 2011 with many impressive innings and over the course of several spells with the county, averaged 49 in first-class matches and over 70 in List A games. His contribution to the 2012 Second Division Championship-winning was typified by a regular signalling of his intentions at the top of the innings with some muscular hitting, often getting his side off to a good start, and making it clear that his side was not going to be bullied by the opposition.
His finest innings for the county was also his highest score, and featured some of the cleanest, and most powerful hitting ever by a Derbyshire batsman. He made a superb 227 against Gloucestershire at Bristol in a County Championship game in 2015, facing just 176 balls and hitting 29 fours and 11 sixes. Those 11 sixes are a Derbyshire record – previously no batsman had ever scored more than eight in an innings for the county.
When Guptill left the county, he was replaced by fellow New Zealander, Hamish Rutherford. Rutherford had announced his arrival on the international stage in 2013, when he made a remarkable 171 against England on his Test debut at Dunedin and was considered a promising signing. Despite one first-class hundred, it was in one-day cricket where he produced his best performances, averaging a shade under 54.
His finest innings was probably against Worcestershire in a Royal London One-Day Cup game at New Road in June 2016. On a hot summer day, Derbyshire were set a challenging target of 296 and, batting at three, Rutherford scored 104 from 76 balls out of a total of 163 runs added while he was at the crease. He hit seven sixes and seven fours, as Derbyshire cruised to a seven-wicket victory.
During that innings, Rutherford looked as good as any Derbyshire player of recent vintage, pulling, cutting and driving imperiously as he scored one of the best one-day hundreds ever for Derbyshire.
Neil Broom and James Neesham arrived in 2016; Broom to play in all formats, Neesham (initially) just to play T20 matches.
Broom arrived with a good career record with the bat, but struggled to get established, scoring three 90s, but never reaching three figures, and only managed to average 25 in first-class games. He looked a classy player and after his season at Derbyshire, was selected to play Test cricket for his home country.
Neesham was billed as an all-rounder, capable of bowling at ninety miles per hour, and his 15 T20 wickets in the 2016 season has only ever been bettered by four other bowlers. His Test batting average of 34 suggests he can bat in the longest format of the game, although his T20 batting for Derbyshire consisted mainly of quite brutal cameos.
Matt Henry played exclusively in T20 for Derbyshire during their 2017 when the county reached the quarter-finals for only the second time. His bowling economy rate was over 10, and he only averaged 12 with the bat, but he took wickets at crucial times and his innings of 28 was vital in the win over Yorkshire at Chesterfield in what was a low-scoring encounter. He bowled fast at times and proved himself an excellent fielder in the deep, taking several superb catches, and played his part in Derbyshire’s qualification for the quarter finals for the first time since 2005.
Lachlan ‘Lockie’ Ferguson at his quickest was as fast as any bowler in the country in 2018 – Sky Sports clocked him at well over 90mph, and his ability to bowl fast yorkers saw him pick up a total of 16 wickets in T20 cricket, only bettered by Alex Hughes and Imran Tahir in a single season. Ferguson also played five first-class matches for the county, taking 18 wickets in the second half of the 2018 season.
Henry Nicholls arrived at Derbyshire to take part in their final two T20 group games in 2018. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he became the first player in Derbyshire’s history to play a game – and never bat, never bowl, and never take a catch.
His debut fixture against Leicestershire at Derby was halted by the rain, and the final fixture at Chester-le-Street never began because of inclement weather.
And so Logan Van Beek becomes the tenth New Zealand-born cricketer to play for Derbyshire, and it will be interesting to monitor the progress of what appears to a very promising all-round cricketer.
Kane Richardson will become the 17th Australian-born cricketer to play for Derbyshire when he arrives to take part in the Vitality Blast later this summer.
His predecessors from Australia include 10 international cricketers, with some eminent names among them.
Rod McCurdy was actually the first Australian to play for Derbyshire – not including Frederick Spofforth, of whom more later – when he was selected to play against the touring Indian side at Derby in 1979.
He opened the bowling and his first ball was a beamer to Sunil Gavaskar which never bounced even after it passed the batsmen, carrying on the full into wicket-keeper Alan McLellan’s gloves. He took one wicket in the Indians’ first innings and never played for the county again although he did represent Australia subsequently in One-Day International cricket.
Matthew Cassar was the next to take his place in the Derbyshire side – in 1994 – following a lengthy qualification period which allowed him to play as an England-qualified cricketer.
He was followed by one of several cricketing greats from Australia who would grace the county over the following 20 years. Dean Jones arrived with a massive reputation as a wonderful Test and Limited Overs batsmen, and, taking over the captaincy from Kim Barnett, led Derbyshire to second place in the County Championship in 1996, their highest placing in the table since the 1936 championship win, and only the third time in the club’s history that they had been placed in the top two.
His batting and fielding were exemplary, and his running between the wickets was of a standard rarely seen in the English game.
1997 saw the side fail to reach the heights of the previous summer, and midway through the season, Jones returned to Australia following bust-ups on and off the field.
Observers will never forget that wonderful summer of 1996 though, when Derbyshire were genuine contenders for the title.
After Jones’ departure, Australia batsmen came thick and fast; Michael Slater, Michael Di Venuto, Chris Rogers and Simon Katich all represented the county between 1998 and 2007.
Di Venuto, Rogers and Katich all produced some wonderful examples of batmanship, racking up thousands of runs between them.
Di Venuto scored 7,256 first-class runs at an average just under 50 with 19 hundreds, while Rogers scored 4,616 at 59.94 and 15 hundreds.
Katich, in his sole season, made 1,284 runs in 2007 at an average of 75.52, never bettered by a Derbyshire batsman scoring 1,000 first-class runs in a season. He scored three hundreds and 8 fifties.
Marcus North (two separate spells), Stuart Law and Travis Birt all produced some splendid performances with the bat, as did all-rounder Jonathan Moss, most notably a match-winning 147 not out against Durham at Chester-le-Street.
Another all-rounder, Ian Harvey, only played in two first-class matches for the county, in 2007, and uniquely for Derbyshire, scored a century in each game, ending with a batting average of 144.5.
The remaining Australian-born cricketers are off-spinner Andy Gray, fast bowler, Paul Havell, batsman, Michael Dighton, and fast bowler Nathan Rimmington.
Rimmington, like Richardson, played exclusively in T20 games for Derbyshire in 2015.
One additional Australian, the famous fast bowler, Fred Spofforth, known as ‘The Demon’ and regarded as Australia’s greatest 19th century quick bowler, also played for Derbyshire but the county did not have first class status at the time.
When Kane Richardson makes his debut, he will become the ninth Richardson to play for Derbyshire. The only surname to feature more often for the county is Smith, while there have also been nine cricketers with the surname Taylor.
Samuel was the first Richardson to represent the county; indeed he was Derbyshire’s first-ever captain in 1871.
Known as ‘Spanish Sam’ he became Derbyshire’s Assistant Secretary and the first Secretary of Derby County Football Club. He should, therefore, command an honourable place in Derbyshire sporting history, but his copybook was seriously blotted when he was implicated in financial misdeeds. He was found to have misappropriated £1,000 of club funds – an enormous sum in 1890 – and when confronted with the evidence, fled to Spain.
He opened an English-style outfitters in Madrid, made a great success of it, and received the official patronage of the King of Spain, subsequently referring himself as “Court Tailor to the King of Spain.”
However, the most famous Richardson – and for all the right reasons – was Arthur Walker Richardson, captain of the 1936 Derbyshire side which won the County Championship. Born in Quarndon, Richardson took over the captaincy from Guy Jackson in 1931, and in his six seasons at the helm saw Derbyshire finish seventh, tenth, sixth, third, second and first in the County Championship. Small wonder that he was happy to relinquish the role and retire from the game at the end of that great, unique season.
Vitality Blast is back! Derbyshire Falcons host seven Twenty20 games this summer. Purchase your tickets in advance and save. Buy online or call 01332 388 101.