Cricket Diary: Twelfth Man: One-cap wonder is left wondering

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The Independent Online
AT THE start of Mark Benson's career it was widely expected in the best-informed circles that he would become a Test cricketer. He did, too. On 3 July, 1986, he opened the batting for England against India at Edgbaston.

Thus, he joined the ranks of players who have appeared in a solitary Test match. He will forever be M R Benson of Kent and England. There have been 80 like him in all, men who caught the selectorial eye once and were then discarded. Craig White and Stephen Rhodes will not, presumably, add to the list, though much can happen between now and the second Test at Lord's. (In the case, for instance, of Norman Oldfield, who made 80 and 19 at The Oval against the West Indies in late August, 1939, and was mentioned in this space last week in another context, the Second World War happened).

Excluding the two debutants at Edgbaston there are five men still playing who have one Test cap for England. Benson's was awarded the longest time ago, so he has the least chance of another.

'It won't happen now, of course,' said the Kent captain who will be 36 next month. 'There might have been a time once, and I might just have played two or three years before I did. I'm disappointed, of course, but I should say it's better to have played just once when you think of all the good players who haven't'

In his Test, Benson made 21 (after England were 0 for two) in the first innings and 30 in the second. By the time the New Zealanders started their series 16 days later he was out of favour for good. 'I've probably not had the best batting pitches in Kent during my career,' he said, 'but I've also tended not to go on and make big hundreds and have got out quite a lot between 50 and 100.'

The other four still playing who may never double their number of caps are: James Whitaker, John Stephenson, Neil Williams and Paul Taylor. They were preceded by many illustrious cricketers who were called up just once.

Perhaps most famously, C A Smith was captain of England in his only Test, against South Africa in 1889, and went on to become a Hollywood film star as Sir Aubrey Smith.

In 1921, against Australia, seven men who made their debuts never appeared again. In 1933, against the West Indies, C S 'Father' Marriott took five for 37 and six for 59 with his leg breaks in his only match.

In 1924 against South Africa, Jack MacBryan stood at slip for nearly three hours. It then proceeded to rain for the rest of the match and he remains the only England Test player never to have batted, bowled or dismissed anyone in the field. Doubtless Richard Stemp, in the squad but omitted from the team on Thursday, will hope even that happens one day.

BEYOND A BOUNDARY, described by John Arlott, who knew such things, as 'arguably the finest piece of literature about cricket or any other game', has been republished. C L R James's seminal work, first published in 1963, comes complete with an introduction and 'A Note on Cricket' written for its United States edition.

James lived in the US for 15 years before being expelled in 1953 and his books are routinely studied there. His own preface to Beyond A Boundary, which examines cricket and its relationship to racial politics, uses his famous phrase: 'What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?'

In the new edition, 'A Note On Cricket' says, among other things: 'The bowler hurls the ball alternately from each wicket in sets called overs.'

C L R, for all his dismissal of the narrow view, may have thought a slightly more detailed grasp was acceptable. Peter Ayrton, of publishers Serpent's Tail, said: 'Some of the early reviews have commented favourably on the inclusion of the introductions. To be honest, we didn't know about them.' With or without the American attempts to explain, however, Beyond A Boundary has lost none of its power.

IN Tuesday's Benson and Hedges Cup semi-finals the sides should continue to think seriously of batting second, or not at all. Matters have not changed since last this space surveyed the issue. Of 16 games in the competition this season 15 have been won by the side chasing runs. The other was won in a bowl-out.

Watch out, too, for Tom Moody, the Worcestershire batsman. He has emerged as a key one-day bowler. Opening in both his sides' ties so far, he has bowled his allotted overs in one spell on each occasion and has had figures of 11-4-22-0 and 11-5-14-3.

QUOTE of the week: 'It's just the wrong time to make a thoroughly splendid double hundred - on the eve of the selectors' meeting in front of the England captain who's your county team-mate and when everybody recognises you are likely to be England's best batsman for years to come. They can't possibly pick him.' - A watching, sardonic (and accurate) scribe after John Crawley's glorious 281 not out for Lancashire against Somerset.

CHRIS SMITH, 12th man in the batting averages of 1983 and now vibrant chief executive of the Western Australia Cricket Association, on the game's future: 'There's nothing wrong with county cricket but the game's under siege and in England each county must appoint several coaches, partly funded by them, partly by the TCCB, to get out into the schools straight away.' And on brother Robin: 'He has all the talent to be the best in the world but I don't know what goes on in his head. I begin to question whether he should be more focused.'

(Photograph omitted)

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