Cricket: Bowler bringing his good breeding to bear

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The Independent Online
As maiden Test wickets go, it was one he will remember with a special glow; one, indeed, he may well tell his own grandchildren about with some pride. Dean Headley, son of Ron, grandson of George, collected his debut cap from Michael Atherton and then announced the arrival in Test cricket of a third generation from one family line by dismissing the Australian captain.

There have been 32 sons who have followed their fathers into the Test arena but the Headley story is unique. George, assessed by some to be the equal if not the better of Bradman, made 10 centuries in 40 Tests for the West Indies, averaging 60. His son, who scored more than 20,000 runs for Worcestershire, was not nearly so talented but was rewarded with international recognition at the end of his career and now Dean has maintained the family tradition.

It is one of which he is deeply proud and, lest there be any suspicion that he is somehow betraying the nation of his forebears, he is more English than a good many who have worn the three lions. His father left the Caribbean as a boy to settle in Dudley, growing up to play in the Birmingham League. Dean was born in Stourbridge, can talk Brummie with the best and supports West Bromwich Albion.

He has neatly avoided the carrying of one burden in life by becoming a bowler rather than inviting direct comparisons with his elders, and he has reached this pinnacle only through his own drive to succeed.

Worcestershire took him on, nine years ago, as an 18-year-old. But they let him go after a season and only after rebuilding his confidence with Staffordshire did he win another chance at first-class level. He repaid Middlesex with five wickets on his debut but left Lord's unfulfilled, rejecting their contract offer as inadequate.

And so to Kent, where his talents have blossomed. Last season, he took three Championship hat-tricks in a first-class tally of 51, despite missing the first eight weeks with a hip injury. Last season, indeed, was one of particular frustration. Having excelled in Pakistan with England A, where he took 25 wickets at 15 runs each, the transition to Test cricket seemed likely to be offered almost immediately and the timing of the injury could not have been worse.

On his return he won a place in England's one-day side but in the winter had to settle again for the secondary tour. In Australia with England A he was again the tourists' most successful bowler, but the hip trouble flared for a second time, requiring surgery to correct it. He recovered in time to play a part in this season's Texaco Trophy triumph only for an unrelated back injury to rule him out of the first two Tests. Yesterday, his perseverance gained its just reward.

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