Hudson-Prentice wins The Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance Award

Friday 11th December 2020
Photography by: David Griffin

Fynn Hudson-Prentice has won The Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance Award, chosen by Heritage Officer, David Griffin, for his match-winning 91 not-out against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. 

Eddie Barlow died on 30th December 2005.

He had been a remarkably influential cricketer and leader during his three-year association with club from 1976 to 1978.

Prior to his arrival the club had been in the doldrums for several seasons and Barlow’s influence, and cricketing skill, was much-needed.

He transformed Derbyshire, taking them to fourth place in the John Player League, seventh in the County Championship, and, most memorably, a day out at Lord’s in the 1978 Benson and Hedges Cup Final.

No longer the rubbing rags of English cricket, Barlow made Derbyshire feared for the first time in years, and influenced those who followed him, particularly the young Kim Barnett who he took under his wing in South Africa, preparing him for the Derbyshire captaincy.

I remember Eddie returning to Derbyshire – in a wheelchair following a serious stroke – for a Past Players Day in 2004. He stayed in the shadows, happy to talk to his former players who still hung on his every word, until I asked him if he’d like to take a trip around the ground, as many people would doubtless love to see him.

“Will they remember me?” was his response. Some three hours later we got back to the pavilion; they’d remembered him all right.

His influence on everyone at Derbyshire was positive; average players became good, good players got better, better players got into the England Test team, but his influence extended beyond the dressing room.

There has never been such an influential cricketer at Derbyshire in my lifetime, and it was his ability to engender self-belief amongst players and spectators, and his knack of winning games when all seemed lost. Indeed, there was no such thing as a lost cause when Eddie was on the field.

And so, when he died, I introduced the Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance Award, designed to be presented at the end of each season to the player who produced the most inspiring performance of the season. Traditionally, the silver salver is presented at the End of Season Awards dinner, and although no such event took place at the conclusion of the 2020 season, I’m still keen to ensure the worthy winner is announced.

Importantly, this has never been a statistically-based award; while Luis Reece won the 2019 award for his superb 184 and 5-63 against Sussex at Derby, Matthew Critchley won it in 2018 for smashing Tim Bresnan for 22 off five balls of the final over as Derbyshire beat Yorkshire in a T20 game at Chesterfield, exemplifying the Barlow spirit of never-say-die and producing something out of nothing when most needed.

And despite a shortened 2020 season, there were still a number of contenders for the award which I eventually whittled down to two – both from the same match.

In another season, Leus du Plooy’s remarkable first innings hundred against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in August might have won this award. Kirsten-esque in execution – high praise – it was an innings of two halves as the left-hander played conventionally before producing some outrageous, deft, and thrilling shots, leaving the Nottinghamshire players bemused and bereft.

But, reminding readers that this award is not necessarily destined to be awarded to the ‘best’ innings or bowling performance, but to the most inspiring effort, by that sole criterion there was an innings later in the game which trumps even that remarkable effort by du Plooy.

Derbyshire conceded a first innings deficit of 85 despite du Plooy’s heroics, and when the hosts were dismissed for 279 second time around it left Derbyshire needing 365 runs to win.

Never before had Derbyshire scored as many runs in the fourth innings to win a match against another county, and with their most recent win at Nottingham coming in 2002, the odds were on a home win.

Billy Godleman scored a fine 86 at the top of the order, but with the top six all out for 234 and 131 still needed for victory, hopes were probably not that high amongst those watching via the live stream.

It would be remiss to ignore Mattie McKiernan’s 20 or Michael Cohen’s 30 not out, but the rest of the day belonged to Fynn Hudson-Prentice.

Hudson-Prentice had already demonstrated his sense of occasion, scoring 99 and taking a wicket with the first ball of his Derbyshire first class debut a year earlier, but his 169-ball unbeaten 91 on this day was truly inspirational. Mixing confident strokeplay with watchful defence, he saw Derbyshire to a memorable and record-breaking win with just one ball of the match remaining. In every sense of the word, the innings was inspirational and very much the kind of performance for which Barlow is so fondly remembered.

So, for that inspirational and match-winning innings, the winner of the 2020 Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance Award is Fynn Hudson-Prentice.

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