Derbyshire County Cricket Club is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Mike Hendrick, one of the county’s finest post-war cricketers.
Heritage Officer, David Griffin, looks back at his career.
There is a stellar list of Derbyshire fast and fast-medium opening bowlers who also opened the bowling for England which goes back to the early 1900s when Arnold Warren was selected to play for his country.
Bill Copson, George Pope, Cliff Gladwin, Les Jackson, Harold Rhodes, and Alan Ward all followed, before Hendrick won his first Test cap in 1974.
Although others followed, Hendrick remains the last Derbyshire-born cricketer to open the bowling for England in a Test match.
Born at Darley Dale in 1948, Hendrick was educated in the north-east at St Mary’s Grammar School in Darlington and as a teenager played 2nd XI cricket for Leicestershire before making his 2nd XI debut for Derbyshire against Lancashire at Turf Moor, Burnley, in 1967.
In a drawn game he took 2-37 and 0-43, but by June 1969, aged 21, he had graduated to the first team for his debut against Oxford University at Derby.
In a rain-affected match he took a wicket in each innings, but only played one further first team match that summer.
In 1970 and 1971 there were hints of what was to come, but his major breakthrough came a year later when he took 6-7 against Nottinghamshire in a John Player League match at Trent Bridge and four days later took 6-43 against the same opponents in a Championship game.
He took 8-50 against Northamptonshire and 7-65 against Somerset, both at Chesterfield, ending the season with 58 first class wickets at an average of 23.00.
There was much hope that Hendrick and Ward would form another great fast bowling pairing for Derbyshire, emulating Cliff Gladwin and Les Jackson and other predecessors, but in fact between 1970 and 1975 they only played as a pair in approximately 25% of the Championship games during that period.
Injuries and Test calls were the reasons, but the fact that the pairing never reached the heights of a number of their predecessors didn’t diminish Hendrick’s contribution to Derbyshire cricket.
By the time Eddie Barlow had shaken up the side during the second half of 1976, expectations were high at the start of 1977, for both Hendrick and Derbyshire, and a rise in the Championship table to 7th, with 4 consecutive wins in midsummer, had much to do with Hendrick, now fitter than ever and regarded as a world class performer.
He took 67 wickets at an average of just 15.94 in first class matches, including 14 at 20.71 in three Ashes Tests.
One of Derbyshire’s highlights that summer was the win by an innings and 177 runs over Middlesex at Ilkeston in June. It was the largest margin of victory by any county in the Championship that year and to this day, many observers fondly recall Hendrick taking 6-19 with an exhibition of high class fast-medium seam bowling, as 8 fielders waited behind the bat.
His high standards were present in limited overs cricket too – he played in the 1979 World Cup Final – taking over 200 List A wickets for Derbyshire at an average under 19.
Aside from his magnificent 6-7 at Nottingham, he produced one of the more remarkable one day performances for Derbyshire in a Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final against Warwickshire at Derby in 1978. After Derbyshire had posted 203-9 from 55 overs, a tight opening spell was necessary to ensure the visitors didn’t get off to a flying start.
When Barlow rested his opening bowler, Hendrick had figures of 8-6-2-2, scarcely believable in one day cricket. He ended the match with 11-6-14-2 as Derbyshire reached their first Lord’s final since 1969.
Another successful Ashes campaign followed in 1978/9 with Hendrick taking 19 wickets at an average of 15.73, and in 1980 he was once again his usual accurate, metronomic, and dangerous self, taking 55 first class wickets at 17.81.
The 1981 Nat West Trophy final brought Hendrick the winners medal he craved with the county of his birth but by then his relationship with his captain, Barry Wood, had soured and a move down the A52 to Nottinghamshire was an inevitable, if hugely disappointing consequence.
His 719 all formats wickets place him 16th on the overall list for Derbyshire, and the only fast or fast-medium bowlers ahead of him were fellow England internationals with the exception of the inestimable Bill Bestwick.
Curmudgeonly when the mood took him – frankly, a description one could apply to all of his fellow Derbyshire greats with ball in hand – he was also a fine raconteur.
I recall an evening in a bar in Edinburgh about 15 years ago when he sat and regaled a group of about half a dozen of us with magnificent tales of cricketers past and present, all delivered in his sonorous tone, with a perfectly-timed punch line, followed by the sound of laughter.
So, what of his bowling? Numbers cannot do him justice, although 719 wickets at an average under 20 place him right up there with the best the county has ever produced. Broadly built in the shoulders, he ran no further than he needed to in order to reach the crease at a moderate pace before thrusting his left arm skyward and delivering the ball via a powerful right arm.
Invariably, the ball would pitch in what is now routinely referred to as the ‘corridor of uncertainty’, placing batsmen in a quandary; to come forward and risk steep bounce and potential movement taking the edge of the bat, or stay back and risk the ball nipping back and trapping the unfortunate batsmen lbw?
Hendrick himself often discussed how he genuinely had no idea what the ball would do at the other end; he bowled seam-up and let the ball do the work. Maybe he was being modest, or maybe just honest.
Alec Bedser, Chairman of England Test Selectors during the 1970s felt that Hendrick bowled too short, making him economical but denying him wickets he should have taken when he beat the bat, and even the great Bob Taylor, writing in his autobiography in 1985, felt that Hendrick bowled the wrong length and from the wrong angle.
However, when asked during Hendrick’s golden period between 1974 and 1980, to name the best bowler of his type in English cricket, few batsmen would have chosen anyone other than the tall fast-medium bowler from Darley Dale.
A multitude of coaching roles followed his retirement from playing, including spells at Derbyshire, and for a time, a position on the Board of Directors, and many bowlers have benefitted from the teachings of this fine bowler.
The final word on a man known throughout the game as ‘Hendo’ goes to John Shawcroft, writer of numerous books on Derbyshire cricket, including the 2020 publication, A Celebration of Derbyshire County Cricket Club.
I spoke to John about the best Derbyshire XI of players he had seen, and after he had unsurprisingly selected Les Jackson as one half of his new ball pairing, he then picked Hendrick, rather than Cliff Gladwin.
“I saw Gladwin bowl, but for me, I think Hendrick was a better bowler. Hendo had to bowl on covered wickets and that makes his record all the more remarkable.”
Forever remembered as one of Derbyshire’s greats and an England Test match opening bowler, everyone connected with Derbyshire, past and present, on and off the field, will want to join together and say, “Farewell Hendo, and thanks for the memories.”
Mike Hendrick Career Bowling Statistics
30 Test Matches 87 wickets at 25.83
Ashes Winner 1977 and 1978/9
167 First Class Matches 497 wickets at 20.05
171 List A Matches 222 wickets at 18.69
NatWest Trophy Winner 1981