Cricket Diary: Eddie's slow march towards history

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The Independent Online
ALAN WELLS, who was 12th man in the 1991 batting averages and is captain of Sussex, said of his county's Championship challenge: 'While our batsmen haven't made the runs we might have expected our bowling has been extremely good. We've got three quality seamers, an off spinner, and a leg spinner. That's a balanced attack.'

THE batsman was 20 years old and in his second match. The bowler was a quarter of a century older and had played 500 times more. It was no contest.

Darren Maddy swept at Eddie Hemmings and was lbw, a routine wicket for the old Sussex warrior, another young blade suckered into misreading the flight. But this one was special.

When Maddy made his error of judgement at Grace Road the other day he provided Hemmings with the 1,500th wicket of his long career. Only 79 players before him have taken as many, few will follow. 'I'm chuffed about it,' said the man known variously in his time as Ernie, Whale, Fossil and, to some, when he was firing in his off-spinners for England, as Fast Eddie. 'It's really the first target I've ever aimed for. I discovered at the beginning of the summer that I was 33 short and thought it would be a good one to get. It has taken a bit of time reaching it.'

Hemmings will be 46 before the start of next season and while he has no plans for retirement, even someone with his desire for the game may struggle to become the 34th player to 2,000 wickets.

'These aren't things you think about at the start of your career,' he said. 'I don't know when I'll go and I'd like to stay in the game anyway. I applied for the coach's job at Notts but they would have been brave to appoint me so soon after I had left. I'm still fairly fit, though that doesn't get any easier, especially at this stage in a season. But I really don't think I'm keeping the young Sussex off-spinner back. He's got a bit of developing to do yet.'

Hemmings himself served a lengthy apprenticeship in the game with Warwickshire. He made his first-class debut in 1966, appeared in the Championship for the first time in 1968 (six for 90 against Hampshire) and was seen as a seam bowling all-rounder.

He was beginning to establish himself, but did not make a single appearance when Warwickshire won the Championship in 1972. He turned himself into an off-spinner and, eventually, when he moved to Nottinghamshire, an England player. At Sussex this summer he has given away barely three runs an over, but has usually had two or three fielders round the bat.

'I try to tell the lads coming up,' he said, easily slotting into elder statesman mode, 'that pressure bowling can be bowling maidens. Bowl two or three of them and that can be attacking because it will often get you wickets.'

Whether it will ever again get anybody 1,500 of them is doubtful. John Emburey, on 1,444 at the start of this season, should easily join the elite band but will probably now have to wait till 1995. No other bowler playing is in sight. With a mere 17 Championship matches a season it is difficult to see that anybody will be again.

IT must have been a difficult decision for David Graveney to announce his retirement last week. He will have the customary conundrum which faces all those who have played for so long, which in the left-arm spinner's case is 23 years: how to adjust to summers without cricket?

Graveney deserves to find a role in the game and is respected enough to do so. In Durham he became a cult figure. There was perhaps another consideration which might reasonably have delayed his departure. He has taken 977 wickets and unless he has a phenomenal end to the season - which would be reason enough to continue - the cherished landmark of 1,000 will elude him.

So next year will be the first since 1947 that a Graveney has not played first-class cricket somewhere in the world. David's father Ken began his career that year, his uncle Tom started in 1948 and while he finished with Worcestershire in 1970, he played for Queensland in early 1971. David's first game for Gloucestershire was in 1972. It has been an illustrious 47 years.

LAST week, through 1,000 letterboxes, dropped the first quarterly update to The Complete Cricket Companion. While its title is a slight exaggeration, it is conclusive evidence that cricket nuts cannot get enough.

The CCC collates information which is available elsewhere, though probably not in such abundance. It details grounds, players, fixtures, results, ratings and laws. It contains a diary and scorecards. It has things that Wisden does not.

'I'm not actually a Wisden reader,' said Stephen Gaymer, the man who has produced it. 'But I did think that there was scope for something that could be carried around and kept up to date.'

It comes in Filofax format. Despite some initial errors Gaymer hopes to sell 2,000 in a year, 5,000 in five years and wants to expand globally. Thus, can we be sure of knowing that Saleem Raza is top of the United Arab Emirates limited over international bowling averages.

SAGE of the week is surely Kim Barnett, the Derbyshire captain who has carefully nurtured Devon Malcolm in his attack and said on the eve of the West Indies tour last spring: 'I believe he's approaching the peak of his career. He's as quick as ever, more accurate and more thoughtful.'

(Photograph omitted)