As Derbyshire County Cricket Club celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2020, we have asked the Club Heritage Officer, Photographer and Statistician, David Griffin, to write a series of articles covering some of the county’s greatest moments and players.
The series will include accounts of the 1936 County Championship-winning season, the 1981 Nat West Trophy-winning campaign, as well as the triumphs of 1990, 1993 and 2012 in the RAL Sunday League, the Benson and Hedges Cup, and the County Championship Second Division, respectively.
Also, there will be a focus on Derbyshire’s England Test Cricketers, their finest batsmen, bowlers and wicketkeepers, and a feature looking at Derbyshire’s overseas players.
Finally, with a rich history of playing at a multitude of home venues, there will be an article covering the history of Derbyshire grounds.
In this tenth article in the series the focus is on our England Test cricketers.
Some Derbyshire cricketers, like Chris Adams and Ian Blackwell, moved to another county before earning a Test cap, whilst a number of former England Test players came to Derbyshire after their Test career had ended – David Steele, Barry Wood and Rob Bailey among them.
This article, however, just includes the 24 Derbyshire cricketers to have played Test cricket for England whilst on the Derbyshire playing staff.
I grew up believing that Derbyshire cricketers were less favoured when it came to being recognised by the England Test selectors. And the evidence of Derbyshire’s first 100 years makes a good case.
Between 1892, when William Chatterton was the first Derbyshire player to represent England, until 1969, when Alan Ward became the 16th, the greatest number of Test matches played by a Derbyshire cricketer was 9, by Stan Worthington, the only Derbyshire player to score a Test hundred for England.
Those first 16 players played a mere 58 combined Test matches, an average of less than 4 apiece, but whether this was because of a bias against Derbyshire cricketers, or not, remains a subject for debate.
Regardless of bias, or otherwise, these are the 24 Derbyshire players who earned that most coveted honour in the game, a Test match cap.
William Chatterton: One Test Match – Test Debut 1892
William Chatterton is generally accepted as Derbyshire’s first batsman of real class scoring over 7,500 runs for the county with 6 centuries between 1882 and 1902. His single Test match appearance came when he toured South Africa in 1891/2 with Walter Read’s team. He topped the tour averages with 955 runs at 41.52 and scored 48 in the only eleven-a-side game, a match subsequently upgraded to Test status.
William Storer: Six Test Matches – Test Debut 1897
Bill Storer was one of Derbyshire’s greatest players. A wicket-keeper batsman, he scored 15 centuries for Derbyshire, 12 of which while he was playing as the specialist ‘keeper. A true all-rounder, he also bowled in ten of the matches in which he scored a hundred as a wicket-keeper.
One measure of his prowess as a batsman is his remarkable average of 51.13 in the 1896 season when he scored 1,125 runs. No Derbyshire player scoring a thousand runs or more managed to average 50 or over until Peter Kirsten in 1982. In fact, there have only been eight occasions when a batsmen has averaged more than Storer did on those uncovered and inconsistent pitches in the 19th century.
He was also the first Derbyshire player to score a hundred in each innings of a match, making 100 and 100 not out against Yorkshire at Derby in 1896.
In 1897 he made his Test debut against Australia at Sydney and kept in all five matches in the series, making one half century and averaging just over 24. Australia won the series by four matches to one and Storer was not selected again until 1899 when he returned to play against Australia at Trent Bridge, while in a match for Derbyshire against MCC at Lord’s in 1900 he scored 175 not out which – helped by the net boundary experiment – included two sevens, five sixes and five fives.
Arnold Warren: One Test Match – Test Debut 1905
A bowler described as genuinely fast in contemporary accounts, Warren was also considered the fastest of all Derbyshire bowlers by Mr Will Taylor who as a player and then club secretary saw them all between the early 1900s and the 1970s, including Harold Rhodes and Alan Ward in their prime.
Warren was capable of extracting bounce from any pitch as well as being able to move the ball either way at pace.
He took 918 wickets for Derbyshire including five in an innings on 70 occasions and was quite devastating at times.
In 1904 – his third full season of county cricket – he took 124 wickets with a best of 8-69 but it was his 12 wickets against Yorkshire at Derby the following season which secured him an England place at Headingley against Australia.
Trumper, Armstrong, Noble and Darling were among his five wickets in the first innings (5-57), but he reportedly bowled poorly in the second innings as Australia batted for a draw and was never chosen to play for his country again.
There were also unconfirmed reports that after the first innings triumph, Warren may have celebrated too extravagantly with his family and incurred the displeasure of the England hierarchy.
Joe Humphries: Three Test Matches – Test Debut 1908
Joe Humphries was a contemporary of Bill Storer and gained selection as a wicket-keeper for Derbyshire in 1899 to allow the latter to concentrate on his batting.
Rheumatic fever meant that he missed the entire 1901 season but when he returned, he proved to be a wicket-keeper of the highest quality.
He was undoubtedly a superb ‘keeper standing up to the wicket, especially to quick bowlers, and none more so that Warren and Bill Bestwick, completing 10 stumpings off each bowler.
He toured Australia with MCC in 1907/8 and made his Test match debut at Melbourne in January 1908 scoring 16 batting at number 10 as England won by just one wicket.
He also played in the next two matches which ended in victories for Australia and he was never picked again.
For Derbyshire, he scored over 5,000 runs and completed 627 dismissals.
Harry Elliott: Four Test Matches – Test Debut 1928
Harry Elliott, arguably Derbyshire’s outstanding wicket-keeper until Bob Taylor took the crown some decades later, was 29 before he made his first class debut, informing Derbyshire that he was actually four years younger as he thought he might not be selected if the club knew his real age.
He made an immediate impression and made his debut for Derbyshire against Essex at Derby in June 1920. He was an instant success and went on to play 194 consecutive first class matches for the county, a run only broken when he was selected to play for England against the West Indies in 1928.
Subsequently, he made 232 consecutive appearances up to 1937 when injury ruled him out.
Like Taylor, he was never considered more than a stubborn and defiant batsman, although he did score over 7,000 runs in his 520 matches for Derbyshire, including 11 half centuries.
Although he played four Test matches for England, Elliott’s greatest achievement was surely winning the county championship in 1936 when he played in all 28 matches. He had featured in Derbyshire’s worst-ever season in 1920 when 17 of their 18 games were lost (the other was abandoned without a ball being bowled), and so was well-placed to recognise the magnitude of the championship title triumph in comparison to his early days at the club. He was Derbyshire’s only professional cricketer to play in both 1920 and 1936.
His Test debut came in South Africa on the 1927/8 tour, the home side winning by a comfortable 8 wickets, although his next appearance – against the West Indies at Old Trafford later that year resulted in an innings victory for England.
He didn’t play for England again for a further five years, when under the captaincy of Douglas Jardine, he played in his final two Test matches in India, both of which England won.
At the age of almost 56 he returned to Derbyshire’s colours in an emergency – the oldest player ever to take the field for the club.
His keeping was considered to be of the old school – never flamboyant, but efficient and safe, taking the gloves in 519 of his 520 first class matches for Derbyshire and recording 1,176 dismissals including a county record of 292 stumpings, twice as many as Bob Taylor, highlighting the changes in pitches and bowling attacks between their eras.
Stan Worthington: Nine Test Matches – Test Debut 1930
Seven of Derbyshire’s 1936 County Championship-winning team played Test cricket for England – Elliott, Worthington, Les Townsend, Tommy Mitchell, Denis Smith, Bill Copson and George Pope.
They were a high-quality group of players and Worthington, with 17,000 runs and 624 wickets, can stake a claim as one of Derbyshire’s greatest cricketers.
Strongly built he was more than content against pace bowling, enjoying pulling, cutting, and hooking while his bowling was of fast-medium pace.
He began his career as a bowler who could bat but made his way up the order in the late 1920s and at his peak batted anywhere in the top six, including opening.
In 1929/30 he toured Ceylon (Sri Lanka), New Zealand and Australia with MCC and played four matches which were subsequently upgraded to Test matches but then disappeared from the Test scene for six years.
In 1936, as Derbyshire moved towards the county title, Worthington scored 87 and took a wicket in the drawn Test match against India at Old Trafford. His 87 came in a partnership of 127 with the legendary Wally Hammond and it was Hammond with whom he was again batting with in the third Test at The Oval when he scored 128 becoming the only Derbyshire player to score a Test hundred for England while on the Derbyshire staff.
That winter he toured Australia and New Zealand playing three Test matches against Australia but never appeared for his country again despite touring India in 1937/8.
Les Townsend: Four Test Matches – Test Debut 1930
How fortunate Derbyshire were to have two such outstanding all-rounders in their top six during the glory years of the 1930s. Worthington’s 17,000 runs and 624 wickets make him one of Derbyshire’s greatest all-rounders, but Les Townsend makes his case in that category with 17,667 runs and 969 wickets.
In 1932 he completed the 1,000 run / 100 wicket double for Derbyshire, the first player to achieve the feat, and only subsequently achieved once more, by George Pope in 1948.
He was considered an orthodox batsman and bowled off spin at a decent pace although when he made his Derbyshire debut in 1922 bowling appeared to be his main strength.
His four Test appearances all came overseas in the West Indies in 1928/9 and India in 1933/4. His non-selection in a home Test may have been due to the preference of a leg-spinner in the side; between 1930 and 1939 England played 35 Test matches at home and only selected an off-spinner on 5 occasions.
Tommy Mitchell: Five Test Matches – Test Debut 1933
Indisputably the greatest spin bowler in Derbyshire’s history, Tommy Mitchell’s bowling statistics are astonishing.
Ignoring his debut season in 1928, in every season thereafter from 1929 to 1938, he took more than 100 first class wickets, ending his career with 82 in 1939.
His 1,417 first class wickets put him in fourth place on Derbyshire’s all-time list while both his 115 five-wickets in an innings and 29 ten-wickets in a match hauls are county records.
His Test debut came against Australia at Brisbane on the ‘Bodyline’ tour of 1932/3 and he also played against New Zealand on the same winter tour, featuring in a further two Tests at home against the 1934 Australians.
Mitchell was a coal miner and had a very forthright manner, and telling Bob Wyatt, England’s Test match captain against South Africa at Lord’s that he ‘couldn’t captain a box of lead soldiers’ probably didn’t help his cause when hoping to secure a regular spot in the national side. It will come as no surprise that this particular Test match, his fifth, in 1935, was his last.
Denis Smith: Two Test Matches – Test Debut 1935
And so, to another of Derbyshire’s outstanding players. Until Kim Barnett came along, Denis Smith held most of Derbyshire’s batting records. His 20,516 first class runs tally has only been bettered by Barnett, while his total of 30 first class hundreds sees him in third place – alongside Wayne Madsen – and behind John Morris and Barnett. Not bad for a player who scored his last century in 1950.
Smith was a tall and elegant left-handed batsman but unfortunate to play in the same era as Frank Woolley, Phil Mead, Morris Leyland, Eddie Paynter, and others. Nonetheless, two Test appearances seems a paltry number for a player who was rated so highly by his contemporaries.
Opening the batting after a few early false starts, Smith scored 1,000 first class runs in a season on 12 occasions, a total only surpassed by Barnett.
His first Test appearance was against South Africa at Headingley in 1935, when he scored 36 and 57, opening the batting, and his last was in the next game of the series when he made 35 and 0 at Old Trafford.
Clearly destined not to play for England again, Smith returned to Derbyshire where he featured in arguably the county’s finest-ever XI, winning the county championship in 1936 and scoring one of Derbyshire’s finest hundreds, 202 not out against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1937.
Bill Copson: Three Test Matches – Test Debut 1939
Bill Copson continued the lineage of outstanding fast and fast medium bowlers which can be traced right back to Bill Mycroft, taking 1,033 first class wickets at an average of just 18.76 with 65 five-wicket innings and 6 10 wicket matches.
Another coal miner, Copson was mentored by Sam Cadman in the Derbyshire Nursery and on his first class debut – against Surrey in 1932 – dismissed Andrew Sandham with his first ball. To date, just five Derbyshire bowlers have performed this feat.
Quick and miserly – which don’t always go hand in hand – Copson suffered from a strained lower back joint and spent his 1936 pre-season training with Chesterfield Football Club.
This clearly worked as he took 140 championship wickets at the remarkably low average of 12.80 in 1936 as Derbyshire won the county championship.
He toured Australia and New Zealand in 1936/7, but the captain Gubby Allen, was a fast bowler, and Bill Voce and Ken Farnes were selected ahead of him. Nonetheless, he topped the tour bowling averages with 27 wickets at 19.81.
In 1939, Copson made his Test debut against the West Indies at Lord’s taking 5-85 and 4-67 in a memorable first game at that level.
At Old Trafford in the next match he took 2-31 and 1-2 but wasn’t selected again that summer.
Other than one final Test in 1947 – the last of the summer against South Africa – Copson’s pace and hostility were confined to the county circuit. Copson opened the bowling with Derbyshire’s Cliff Gladwin in both innings of the match and took 3-46 in the first innings.
George Pope: One Test Match – Test Debut 1947
George Pope was a fine all-round cricketer, a hard-hitting batsman, a fast-medium seam bowler, and a splendid fielder. Legend has it that Pope was taught how to bowl leg-cutters by one the game’s greats, Sydney Barnes.
One of only two Derbyshire cricketers to perform the 1,000 runs / 100 wickets double, Pope’s statistics in 1948 are worthy of inclusion here. He scored 1,152 runs at an average of 38.40 with three centuries and six fifties and took 100 wickets at an average of 17.24 including five in an innings seven times and ten in a match on two occasions.
He had been selected for the 1939/40 winter tour of India, but the outbreak of war saw Pope off to serve with The Royal Signals.
In 1945 he played in three of the five ‘Victory Tests’ taking 15 wickets, but these were never acknowledged as official Test matches.
In 1947 he took ten wickets in a match on 4 occasions and this form saw him called up to play for England against South Africa at Lord’s scoring eight and taking 1-85.
For such a fine cricketer – 6,606 runs and 567 wickets for Derbyshire – just a single Test seems an unjust reward.
Cliff Gladwin: Eight Test Matches and Les Jackson: Two Test Matches
Test Debut Gladwin: 1947, Jackson: 1949
Synonymous with each other throughout their careers, and even to this day, the pairing of Gladwin and Jackson in this context seems appropriate.
That they only played in ten Tests between them is generally regarded as bemusing to some, insulting to others.
Both Derbyshire-born, and both from a traditional mining background, their new-ball partnership was, for the best part of a decade, the most feared in county cricket.
Jackson tops the all-time Derbyshire wicket-taking list with 1,672, and Gladwin sits in second place on 1,536, with both averaging less than 18 runs per wicket.
Gladwin’s Test debut against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1947 resulted in an England win. South Africa made 339 in their first innings with Gladwin taking 2-58 off 50 overs.
This kind of accurate and economical bowling was a great virtue which both high-class bowlers possessed but there was a feeling in the longer term that Alec Bedser would be a more attacking and better Test match bowler.
Gladwin ran the leg-bye off the final ball which won the Durban Test in December 1948, leading to his ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ remark, but with the development of Bedser and Trevor Bailey and the arrival of younger, faster bowlers in the 1950s he was out of the running for a Test berth.
There will always be debate about why Jackson only played two Test matches, especially considering that those two matches were played 12 years apart.
Freddie Brown, later to skipper England against New Zealand, and in 1950-51, lead the party to Australia, was seemingly not impressed with Jackson: “When there is anything in the wicket Jackson can usually be relied on to use it well. His pace is quicker than most people may imagine, but his arm is definitely on the low side, and I am afraid he is somewhat liable to break down.” Brown was also said to have an opinion that Jackson couldn’t “come back” for second or third spells when situations demanded but there are countless examples to prove that this was nonsense. Tom Graveney described it as ‘rubbish’.
As Brown said – and others mentioned – Jackson was a force on helpful pitches, while many thought the advantages available on greener home pitches in Derbyshire skewed his statistics.
Nonetheless, Jackson took 860 first class wickets for Derbyshire at home, and 810 away from home. In 1958, when he took 143 wickets, 100 of them were taken outside the county.
Jackson’s slingy action may also have counted against him, but, sadly, he became another Derbyshire fast bowler to play Test cricket for England but fail to become an established member of the side.
Donald Carr: Two Test Matches – Test Debut 1951
The only Derbyshire cricketer to captain England in a Test match, Carr was one of Derbyshire’s finest players, scoring 14,667 runs, taking 232 wickets and 404 catches.
An attacking captain who benefitted from an outstanding bowling attack at Derbyshire between 1955 and 1962, Carr subsequently became one of the best-known and highly regarded cricketing administrators following his retirement.
At the age of 18 Carr’s cricketing ability was recognised when he was selected to play in the third ‘Victory Test’ (not a Test match) against Australia at Lord’s in 1945.
He went to Oxford University two years later, appearing for Derbyshire during the holiday period and scored his first hundred for Derbyshire in 1951, touring India that winter with MCC, playing in two Test matches, captaining the side in the latter when Nigel Howard was injured.
And that was that for international cricket as far as Carr was concerned despite a Derbyshire record haul of 2,165 first class runs in the 1959 season when he averaged 48.11 and scored five hundreds.
Harold Rhodes: Two Test Matches – Test Debut 1959
Harold Rhodes was one of the fastest and most controversial of all Derbyshire bowlers.
His own account of his cricketing life ‘The Harold Rhodes Affair’ is no longer in print but copies can be found relatively easily, and it offers a comprehensive tale of the various highs and lows of his career.
The fastest and often most outstanding bowler in English county cricket was called several times for throwing – bowling an illegal delivery – culminating in a heated episode at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield in 1965 when the county were hosting the touring South Africans.
That put paid to a Test career which began and ended in 1959 when he took nine wickets at an average of 27.11 against India.
That throwing incident in 1965 was more galling as Rhodes ended the season with 119 first class wickets for Derbyshire at the ridiculously low average of 11.04. He was considered a certainty for re-introduction to the Test side but being called at Chesterfield ended all hope.
In a different era, Rhodes’ action would have been cleared in months, if not weeks, using modern technology. Back in the 1960s, however, technology was limited, and it took eight years to confirm that his action was sound and that he did not throw. By then, the damage was done, but for Derbyshire, 993 first class wickets at 18.91, he remained an outstanding fast bowler.
Alan Ward: Five Test Matches – Test Debut 1969
Alan Ward was another genuinely fast bowler, blessed with an orthodox and thrilling action, and with a record of 348 first class wickets for Derbyshire at an average of 21.56.
He was recognised as a real talent early in his career, taking 30 wickets at an average of 13.30 in 1968 and then 69 at just 14.82 in 1969, the year of his Test debut.
He played threee Test matches against New Zealand that summer taking ten wickets at 21.00 and seemed destined for a long international career.
Injury meant that he missed the start of the 1970 season, but he was chosen to play for England against the Rest of the World side, but injured his ankle, and missed the rest of the series.
He toured Australia with Ray Illingworth’s triumphant 1970/1 Ashes side but returned to the UK after suffering a leg fracture.
In 1971 he played a single Test against India and five years later was selected to play one match against the all-conquering West Indies.
Injury-prone and struggling with a loss of confidence, he was sent from the field by Brian Bolus at Chesterfield in 1973 for refusing to bowl. It was an extraordinary episode which would probably have been dealt with differently in the modern game as he was surely suffering from some form of mental health illness.
Nonetheless, despite the stop-start nature of his career, the injuries and controversies, spectators will long remember the great days of Ward’s career when he looked a fast bowler supreme.
Bob Taylor: 57 Test Matches – Test Debut 1971
Bob Taylor was destined to join the previous 16 Derbyshire Test cricketers who all stalled in single figure Test match appearances – until World Series Cricket came along in 1977.
Indisputably a world class wicket-keeper and holder of the world record for career dismissals, Taylor was unable to break into an England Test side containing the excellent Alan Knott – a superb wicket-keeper who averaged 32 with the bat in Test matches – Taylor’s average was 16.
He made his Test debut in 1971 in New Zealand and his second appearance came at Lahore in December 1977 when he scored 32 (Knott’s average) in England’s only innings against Pakistan.
Alan Knott had chosen to play World Series Cricket and so a vacancy emerged behind the wicket and Taylor was the natural choice. For much of the ensuing years through to 1983/4 – the selectors occasionally decided that they needed a batsman/keeper – he showed what Derbyshire followers already knew, that Taylor was as accomplished a ‘keeper as had ever played the game.
His 57 Test appearances allowed his masterful keeping to be witnessed by a worldwide audience and his career reached its height in 1981 when he was a member of England’s Ashes-winning team, won the NatWest Trophy at Lord’s with Derbyshire, enjoyed a record-breaking benefit season, and scored his one and only first class hundred against Yorkshire.
Taylor was also forthright about the art of keeping wicket, stating; “Wicketkeeping is about standing up, not back,” he says, “because any competent catcher of the ball can do it standing back.” He even titled his 1985 autobiography ‘Standing Up Standing Back’.
Taylor played 812 all formats matches for Derbyshire, just one less than his fellow Staffordshire-born colleague, Kim Barnett.
Mike Hendrick: 30 Test Matches – Test Debut 1974
The 1978 Wisden described Mike Hendrick as the best new-ball bowler in the country.
Derbyshire followers knew that Hendrick was good – 497 first class wickets at 20.05 are testimony to his quality – and with a high action and wonderful control of the ball, he was a great and worthy addition to the lengthy list of top quality fast and fast medium Derbyshire bowlers.
Many, including Bob Taylor, argued that he bowled a yard too short, and it may be that that accounts for his world Test record of most wickets – 87 – without a five-wicket haul. Nonetheless, as a foil for Bob Willis and Ian Botham, he was outstanding, and his Test bowling average of 25.38 is fairly good.
In 1974 he made his Test debut against India, playing three matches, retaining his place for two games against Pakistan later in the summer.
He was chosen to tour Australia and New Zealand in 1974/5 but suffered a hamstring injury and returned home from what ended up being a real trial by pace as Lillee and Thomson were unleashed on England’s batsmen.
Selected again in 1976 for two Test against the West Indies, Eddie Barlow’s fitness demands were met at Derbyshire, and fitter than ever. He regained his England place and took 67 first class wickets at just 15.94.
His Test career peak came in the winter of 1978/9 when, as England won the Ashes in Australia, he took 19 wickets at 15.73.
Geoff Miller: 34 Test Matches – Test Debut 1976
Geoff Miller was the next cricketer to suggest that the old tag about Derbyshire being unfashionable and therefore unlikely to provide players for the England Test side was starting to be ignored. Taylor played 57 Tests, Hendrick 30, and Miller 34, and all three appeared in the same Test team together.
Nonetheless, Miller was never a regular, first choice selection, despite some occasionally outstanding performances, none more so than in the Ashes-winning winter of 1978/9 when his off breaks captured 23 wickets at an average of 15.04.
With a collective 44 wickets at an average of 15, Hendrick and Miller were at the forefront of that Ashes triumph.
Miller was an outstanding young cricketer, apparently destined for greatness, but he had to wait until his 256th first class innings to score a century, and that hampered his chances of batting higher up the order for his country.
However, with over 8,000 runs and 632 wickets in first class matches for Derbyshire, he ranks as one of the county’s finest modern all-rounders.
Phil DeFreitas: 11 Test Matches (44 in all) – Test Debut 1994 (while with Derbyshire)
Philip DeFreitas played the last 11 of his 44 Test matches whilst on the Derbyshire staff, having made his Test debut as a Leicestershire player on the tour to Australia in 1986/7.
DeFreitas was a smooth and classy fast bowler with an exceptional strike rate for Derbyshire. A tearaway quick bowler in his early days, by the time he arrived at Derby he had become a highly-skilled craftsman. He had played for Leicestershire and Lancashire before he moved to Derbyshire for whom he took 434 all formats wickets and was also an explosive lower order batsman and outstanding fielder.
He took 140 Test match wickets with a best of 7-70 but 44 Tests in 10 years confirms that he was not always a permanent fixture in the England side. His first Test against Australia saw him bowling alongside Graham Dilley and Ian Botham, and by the time he played his final Test match against the West Indies in 1995 his fast bowling colleagues included Derbyshire’s Devon Malcolm, Darren Gough, and Peter Martin.
He returned to county duties with Derbyshire and was replaced for the very next Test by Dominic Cork, of whom, more later.
Kim Barnett: Four Test Matches – Test Debut 1988
Kim Barnett – and John Morris two years later – joined the group of 16 who played less than ten Test matches for England.
Whether this was anything to do with the ‘unfashionable’ tag is debatable. Firstly, Derbyshire became a force in county cricket in the late 1980s for the best part of a decade, winning two trophies and finishing in the top five of the county championship on three occasions.
And secondly, and probably more relevant, Graeme Hick, Bill Athey, Graham Gooch, Allan Lamb, Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Robin Smith, Mike Gatting, Mark Ramprakash, Matthew Maynard, Martin Moxon, Rob Bailey, David Gower, Tim Robinson, Chris Broad and others, were all high profile, consistent and prolific English-qualified batsmen.
Therefore, when the opportunity arose, if not taken with both hands, it was not taken at all.
Indeed, in an interview earlier this year with this writer, Barnett said in response to a question about only playing four Tests; “I was 28 – Gooch, Gatting, Broad, Gower, Lamb, Smith, Maynard, Athey, Robinson – there was some competition, and we were all brought up against world class overseas fast bowlers in county cricket. I got 80 against Australia but I always felt that first chance they got, I’d be out, and the regulars would return.”
Nonetheless, Barnett scored 66 (and 0) on his Lord’s debut against Sri Lanka in 1988 and then 80 and 34 in his second Test, against Australia at Leeds in 1989, but scores of 14, 10 and 3 in the next two matches weren’t enough to save his place in the side.
Notwithstanding his short Test career, Barnett remained one of the most dynamic and dangerous opening batsmen in county cricket and was probably a better player after his Test career ended than he was when selected.
His Derbyshire records are probably unsurpassable, almost twice as many runs as any other player; a thousand runs in a season 18 times (the next best is 12) and 268 scores of 50 or more (the next best is 138).
Captain for a record 13 seasons, Barnett was one of the county’s finest players.
Devon Malcolm: 40 Test Matches – Test Debut 1989
Devon Malcolm’s Test debut in 1989 against Australia at Trent Bridge was something of a nightmare for England. The visitors’ opening batsmen added 329 for the first wicket as Malcolm bowled 44 overs, taking 1-166. It was a sobering start to his Test career, but it failed to deter him.
In the West Indies the following winter he gave England the firepower to attack the hosts in the same way that they had been able to use fast bowling to dominate the international game for years.
Despite taken 19 wickets in the Caribbean, he still seemed to be another Derbyshire bowler who could rarely rely on consistent and regular selection for the national side, despite being the only really out and out fast bowler available.
He took 128 Test wickets; only Dominic Cork of Derbyshire bowlers took more for his country (131) but no genuinely England fast bowler can better his 9-57 against South Africa at The Oval in 1994.
Malcolm originally played for Derbyshire – briefly – as an overseas player and was a part of the re-building of the side which Barnett and coach Phil Russell oversaw in the 1980s.
They saw Derbyshire’s strengths – and best chance of success – in combining the young attacking batsmen already on the staff with hostile fast bowlers.
Erratic to start with – and occasionally later in his career too – when Malcolm got everything right, he was an outstanding fast bowler. Bernie Maher, who kept to Michael Holding, Ian Bishop and Malcolm, reckoned that Malcolm was just about the quickest of the three.
He played 289 all formats matches for Derbyshire and took 753 wickets, a tally only bettered by 13 other bowlers.
John Morris: Three Test Matches – Test Debut 1990
John Morris is routinely described as the most naturally talented English batsman to have played for Derbyshire since WWII.
His style began with his stance – he always looked comfortable at the crease, and even the way he walked out to bat made people sit up, as if Morris were saying; “Watch this!”
At his peak, Morris was as good to watch as any batsman in the country, capable of power or delicacy, and with a fine technique against fast bowling.
When he was selected for England to play India at Lord’s in 1990, he was – like Barnett – in the mix with at least a dozen other English-qualified batsmen and most observers recognised that without a burst of run-scoring his tenure would be short.
A natural at number 3 where he scored the bulk of his 18,521 runs, 39 centuries and 91 fifties for Derbyshire, England selected him to bat at number six.
Gooch scored 333 opening the batting, and Lamb and Smith both made hundreds before Morris got his opportunity, making 4 not out before Gooch declared. With England declaring as the fourth wicket fell in the second innings, Morris didn’t get another opportunity in the match.
He made 13 (batting at seven) at Manchester and 15 (retired hurt), and 7 and 32 at The Oval, but was selected for the tour to Australia the following winter.
He was not picked for any of the Tests, preferring to join David Gower in a Tiger Moth fly-by of the ground at Carrara. Frustratingly, Morris scored a brilliant 132 in the England XI first innings, but his prank earned him a fine of £1,000 and banishment from the international scene.
Dominic Cork 37 Test Matches – Test Debut 1995
The 24th and last Derbyshire player to be selected for England in a Test match, Dominic Cork took 131 Test match wickets at an average of 29.81 and at various times during his Test career produced the same remarkable match-winning qualities which were a frequent part of his Derbyshire career.
Before he played Test cricket, Cork had already demonstrated his appetite for the big occasion, scoring a remarkable 92 not out in the Benson and Hedges Cup Final against Lancashire at Lord’s in 1993, aged just 21, an innings which won him the Gold Award and a winner’s medal. But that was just the tip of the iceberg; his match-winning knock against Lancashire the following year in a Benson and Hedges Cup group match was arguably an even better innings; he took 8-53, before lunch and on his 20th birthday, against Essex at Derby in 1990; and in June 1995 he confirmed his durability, bowling unchanged throughout both Northamptonshire innings at Derby recording match figures of 42.3-10-93-13, including 9-43 in the first innings.
Elevation to Test cricket was written in the stars but his debut was the stuff of dreams.
West Indies were the opposition at Lord’s, and he scored 30 batting at number seven and was first change when England bowled, taking just one wicket – that of his former Derbyshire colleague Ian Bishop – for 72 runs.
He scored 23 in the second innings and batted positively, but with West Indies requiring 296 to win, 4 bowlers were used ahead of him as the visitors cruised to the relative comfort of 124-2.
Cork, however, bowling wicket-to-wicket with a great deal of control – and aggression – took 7-43 from 19.3 overs. These remain the best innings figures by an England Test cricketer on debut.
No Derbyshire cricketer – and not that many from elsewhere – had burst onto the Test match scene in such a thrilling manner as Cork. Later in the series at Old Trafford he took a hat-trick – in the opening over of the day – and was one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. It was Boy’s Own stuff.
One could argue that 37 Tests should have been 77 for a player of such ability, but for a variety of reasons Cork could never really match those early performances in Test cricket…indeed, who could?
He could still make a difference at that level, though; in 2000 at Lord’s when once more the West Indies were England’s opponents, he took 4-39 and 3-13 and then scored a terrific, unbeaten 33 as England won by just 2 wickets.
For Derbyshire, he played 347 all formats matches, scoring 8,862 runs and taking 740 wickets.
The Nearly Men
Whilst Dominic Cork was Derbyshire’s last England Test cricketer, others, especially Chris Adams, did play for England after leaving Derbyshire, but could have had a case for selection at any time in his last couple of seasons at Derby.
Ian Blackwell was another who plied his early cricketing trade at Derbyshire, although he didn’t play Test cricket for more than six years after his departure.
In terms of those who should or could have been selected to play Test cricket, then certainly Bill Mycroft – 544 first class wickets for Derbyshire at an average of 11.71 – and Bill Bestwick both have a claim.
Some argued that Mycroft had a suspect action, while Bestwick – cleared of killing a man in a fight in Heanor, sent from the field for urinating after a heavy liquid lunch, and sacked by Derbyshire in 1909 following a number of drink-related incidents in The Grandstand Hotel – was probably not quite what England required in their ranks.
Derek Morgan was an outstanding all-round cricketer – more than 18,000 runs and over 1,200 wickets for Derbyshire – but although named as 12th man for the game against India at Headingley in 1959 (Harold Rhodes’ made his Test debut in that match), that was as close as Morgan got to playing Test cricket.
When this writer spoke to Morgan in 2005 about his career, he diplomatically and kindly spoke about his rival, Trevor Bailey, stating that Bailey had been a more effective all-round cricketer than himself and therefore worthy of his Test place.
Peter Bowler was an outstanding player of fast bowling and a top quality opening batsman. His tally of 2,881 all formats runs in 1992 at an average of 58.79 in the highest in the county’s history but with Gooch, Atherton, and Stewart as his principal rivals for the opening berths, his chance never came.
The final possible Test pick might come as a surprise – the Dane, Ole Mortensen; ‘Stan’ Mortensen was one of the great characters in Derbyshire cricketing history, aggressive, noisy, and hated batsmen.
Despite his origins he was in many ways an archetypal Derbyshire bowler – he disliked giving runs away, bowled that nagging length beloved of Gladwin, Jackson, and Hendrick before him, and took wickets cheaply.
His tally of 653 all formats wickets for Derbyshire put him in 17th place on the county’s all-time wicket-takers list, but the final word on Mortensen should go to his captain, Kim Barnett.
Barnett felt that Mortensen was unequivocally the best English-qualified bowler not to play Test cricket for England over the course of his (Barnett’s) career.
In the 21st century the two players most frequently mentioned in terms of Test selection were Mark Footitt and Wayne Madsen.
Footitt was a genuinely fast left arm bowler who looked set for a lengthy Derbyshire career after taking 160 first class wickets over two seasons – 2014-2015 – enough to take him to the brink of England selection. However, he moved to Surrey at the end of 2015 and was never selected for the national side. At the time, many different bowlers were given an opportunity and it would not have been unfair to allow Footitt at least the chance to show what he could do at that level.
Wayne Madsen is indisputably the finest Derbyshire cricketer of the 21st century, with a huge appetite for both run-scoring and personal development.
His 17,009 all formats runs make him the sixth highest run-scorer in Derbyshire’s history and his 36 hundreds have only been topped by Barnett and Morris.
Arguably plagued by the ‘second division runs’ argument for most of his career, he said in an interview with this writer earlier this year that; “I think had I been English-qualified in 2013, I might have had a chance. In 2016 I had a really good year and I thought I might have a chance, but I guess they were looking at the younger generation by then.”
All of which suggests that his time has passed, which at least means Derbyshire supporters will have the pleasure of watching him bat for a while yet.
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