Cricket Diary: Imperfect fate for the perfect ten

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The Independent Online
DEREK RANDALL, of Nottinghamshire and England, who was 12th man in the batting averages in both 1978 and 1979, was probably the country's best-loved cricketer before retiring last season. He is now running a flower shop in Nottingham. 'I'm not missing the game at all,' he said. 'I went on a couple of years too long and how these chaps like Eddie Hemmings keep going I've no idea. I just like the business and spending time with the kids now.'

AS Ian Thomson remembers it, the pitch was in a shocking state and simply imploring someone to come along and dismiss lots of batsmen. Thomson heeded the call and dismissed all 10 of them in an innings.

That was at Worthing 30 years ago this month. The anniversary does not deserve to pass unremarked because nobody since has performed the feat in a first-class innings in England, which does not make any less remarkable the 10 for nought in 27 balls registered by 17- year-old Alex Kelly in a junior match in Co Durham the other day.

There have been many nines - two last summer - but the final one has been elusive. So far this season Wasim Akram has ripped through Somerset and finished with eight for 30; his Lancashire colleague Mike Watkinson ended with the same analysis when befuddling Hampshire the other day.

In the Twenties and Thirties 'tenfors' were almost commonplace. In 1921 there were five; in 1929 there were three. Through the late Forties and Fifties it still happened often enough to be less than incredible. 'It's got to be done again,' said Thomson, now 65, 'and I'm often surprised that it's taken all this time. You need a pitch which responds and a bit of luck as well. I had a pitch at Worthing which helped no end as the top came off early.'

Thomson, medium fast in those days, pitched the ball well up and allowed it to move disconcerting distances at odd angles. The bulk of the bowling at the other end was done by a young John Snow. 'I bowled a bit slower, I think, and John was a bit too short to take full advantage of what was on offer. I remember getting to eight and thinking it was on.'

The final wicket was that of Tom Cartwright, stumped as he charged down the wicket. Thomson finished with 10 for 49. He took five wickets in the Warwickshire second innings and finished with a match haul of 15 for 75. Unfortunately, as he quickly recalls, they were not good enough to prevent him finishing on the losing side.

Warwickshire, having mustered 196 and 129, bowled out Sussex for 23 in their second innings and won by 182 runs. For Thomson there were other compensations. He met Warwickshire again in 1964, in the Gillette Cup final at Lord's, took four early wickets and virtually wrapped up the match.

'Mike Smith was the Warwickshire and England captain then. With the Worthing match and the Gillette final I'm sure he was instrumental in getting me picked for that winter's tour of South Africa.' It was there that Thomson played his five Tests. He took nine wickets, too, though with the pitches not being quite so helpful as that at Worthing, took 10 innings to do so.

THE great Gloucestershire off- spinner Tom Goddard was another who took all 10 wickets in an innings. He did so in 1937 against Worcestershire. That was not, however, the purpose of Professor Roger Blamey's letter on the legendary bowler. He was moved to write after the piece here about players whose careers had endured beyond their 40th birthdays.

The starting point for this was 1954 but the professor feels that Goddard, who retired slightly before, is worthy of mention. I found it impossible to disagree. Goddard was almost 51 when retired after the 1951 season. He had been good enough to take 238 wickets in a season when he was 46.

Professor Blamey quotes the Playfair Annual of 1952: 'A wonderful harvester of wickets . . . intense of purpose on the battlefield and gaunt of aspect to all young and inexperienced players . . . modern cricket so lacking in personalities will be the poorer for his absence.' (Where have we heard that last part before?) The professor gives Goddard's career figures as 2,934 wickets at 19.78, perhaps forgetting that he was recalled by Gloucestershire in 1952 after that eulogy and got 45 more wickets.

WANDERING into The Oval by the Hobbs Gates the other day and passing other sections of the ground named in honour of Barrington, Bedser, Laker, Lock and May, it was tempting to think there may not be much left for great players to come. After the Barrington Centre and the May Enclosure, it might eventually have to be the Stewart Seat.

Then, amid all this history, there was Durham. They are building a new ground at Chester-le- Street, to be called the Riverside. Several imposing stands are planned but they will be anonymous: Durham have no one to honour. Yet for the first they might like to consider a batsman, born and bred in the county who was never happier than when he was there, who gave great but sadly shortlived joy to all cricket fans. The Milburn Stand, after Colin Milburn, would be fitting and a lasting reminder of how the game can be played.

OLD Players Do Not Necessarily Make Eminent Statisticans, Part One. Mike Smith, the former Middlesex opening batsman now the county's scorer, was asked at Leicester last week how long had it been since Middlesex made 623. 'I've no idea,' he said, 'I'm afraid I'm only the scorer.'

(Photograph omitted)