Cricket: First-time tourists: Debutants who made an immediate impact

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1970-71: BOB WILLIS

Alan Ward, the Derbyshire fast bowler, broke down with a foot injury five matches into the tour, and Bob Willis, 21, was summoned as a replacement. It was a spectacular hunch as he had played only one full season for Surrey and his 40 wickets in the English season had cost 27 runs each. Midway through the series Willis was in Ray Illingworth's Test side as John Snow's partner. It was Snow's series but in Willis it was possible to see England's future. He was fast in support of Snow, played in the final four Tests including the two victories (in both of which he took important catches) and ended with 11 wickets. Still, injury and disillusionment with Surrey meant it was more than two years before he represented England again and resumed one of the most effective of all fast-bowlers' careers.


In the late summer of 1979 word spread round the county circuit that a player of genuine speed was emerging. Graham Dilley was thus picked for the winter tour, arranged after the Packer rift was healed and in which the Ashes were not at stake. Dilley, 20, made the Test side and immediately impressed with his pace. If his body could stay intact it seemed clear that he had the most important weapon of all for a big-time career. In the event, he was to be plagued by problems to knee and back but from day one he caused problems for the Aussies (he was Ian Botham's chief batting partner at Headingley in 1981). He never dominated a series but he returned there in 1986-87, taking 5 for 67 in the first innings of the opening Test. It paved the way for England's win and they never looked back.


When England won a desperately close Christmas Test at Melbourne by three runs, their winning position was created by the 21-year-old Norman Cowans, who had been a surprising selection for the tour and until then had not justified much of the faith shown in him. But one spell of 4 for 19 in seven overs and an innings analysis of 6 for 77 demonstrated speed and hostility. That high promise was never realised. He played for England 19 times, was one of the country's leading bowlers in both 1984 and 1985 but lacked the necessary sustained pace and consistency at the highest level. He could be fast - very fast - but not often enough to be guaranteed reward. Melbourne in December 1982 was a false dawn, then, but it pulled England thrillingly back into the series.


On breaking regularly into the Leicestershire side in 1986, Phillip DeFreitas took 94 wickets and scored 645 runs. He was 20 and selection for the Ashes tour followed. The success continued as he made his way into the Test side. Supporting Dilley he took five wickets and made a no- nonsense 40 in England's opening win. He hit the pitch hard and it seemed he could only get brisker. Yet from thereon his tour and, in a way, his England career declined. Not until 1994 did he remotely begin to realise that wonderful potential (he took 30 wickets in six Tests). He has stayed around a long time and promises to continue awhile yet, has played 44 Tests and taken 140 wickets at little more than 33 apiece. He is the most grudging of seam bowlers, but there remains a sense of under-achievement.