Darrens on first-name terms with history

Cricket Diary Stephen Brenkley
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The Independent Online
PLAYING in the one-day international at The Oval on Thursday, England's No 5 batsman added another to the list of Darrens who have represented the country. Actually, Maddy, of Leicestershire, by joining Gough, of Yorkshire, not only extended but also doubled the Darrens.

Naturally, this represents changing fashions in given names (could Robinson, of Essex, yet be capped to increase it further?). Darren has now left behind Montague, Ivo, Vallance, Rockley and Jason to offer but five names who have been on an England team sheet in the form of only one player. Maddy's selection puts his first name right up there with the likes of Roland (Jenkins and Butcher), Roger (Tolchard and Prideaux), Basil (D'Oliveira and Grieve) and Kumar Shri (Duleepsinjhi and Ranjitsinjhi). But none played in the same side. It is a fairly difficult roll call to chronicle on the grounds that many players (and there have been 588 in Tests and 14 who have played in only one-day internationals) are either known by a forename other than that which comes first or something completely different.

For instance, one Elias Henry Hendren, winner of 51 Test caps, was known all over the world as Patsy and only Hopper Levitt's mother knew him as William Howard Vincent. Still, while precision in the matter is perhaps beyond the most dedicated nomenclature students it is possible to determine a pattern. An exquisite drive or a brutal, late away swinger may have their proponents, but some names are more likely to be in England's side than others.

Alfred and Arthur have been neglected of late but were once virtually full-time residents, there have been some 20 Williams, Willies, Billys or Bills down the years and the 16 Georges are sufficient to demonstrate that they may yet make a return. Charles has had representatives into double figures as has James, though considering the latter's popularity as a first name not many of the breed have made decent cricketers.

The side which turned out for England on Thursday is a fairly singular one. Alongside the Darrens were the only Adam, Nasser and Ashley to play and there appears to have been only one previous Nick (Cook). Chris, Alec and Mark have been slightly better represented and there have been at least 10 Roberts. A season or two could bring, who knows, an Owais or a Melvyn. More research on this will be revealed as the summer goes by but, since there are nearly 50 of them combined, it seems, that a player's best chance of being picked for England is to be called John or Jack.

THERE has been a plethora of career-best performances in the past week. Perhaps the centuries by Michael Gough (Durham) and Tony Frost (Warwickshire) are easy to overlook as they were against University sides. They were maiden hundreds, however, so will be treasured.

Adrian Symes, batting in the unaccustomed position of five for Hampshire, made 133, his highest score in 11 years of county cricket. Craig White, erstwhile England all-rounder (and the only Craig to have played for England, see above) took eight wickets for the first time.

But the CB which truly warmed the heart was one which involved a score of barely any consequence. Paul Hutchison is not one of life's batsmen and indeed when he scored the winning runs for England A in a secondary Test match against Sri Lanka earlier this year he was executing the first sweep shot of his life. He went in at No 3 for Yorkshire as nightwatchman on Thursday night and the next morning stayed and stayed until the end. He finished only on 23 not out but it was his first time in such heady figures, beating his previous best by 10 runs.

WITH his 98th century last week the vultures huddled a little more around Graeme Hick, purportedly the great under-achiever. Having made two already this season, he will, of course, become some time this summer the 24th batsman in history to make 110 first-class hundreds. After Wally Hammond, he will also be the second youngest. And since Hick has not yet played 600 first-class innings it is almost certain that he will achieve the feat in fewer than all but Don Bradman and Denis Compton.

BOOK MARK

"Regrettably the importance of a country winning has assumed exaggerated proportions. And it is no use England holding aloof if we intend to keep or improve our place in world sport. Every international must be played as hard as possible within the rules. No quarter should be given or expected. The secret of success is to play all-out to win...If defeat does come, then it must be accepted in the right spirit - which is to make quite sure it doesn't happen again."

Words of encouragement for the gallant England lads of 1998 as they once more enter the fray, and showing that it was not that much different then. From Playing To Win by the great all-rounder Trevor Bailey, which was published 44 years ago.

Silly Point

ON entering The Oval for practice on Thursday, the South African coach was in splendidly waspish form. In that bright way of his Bob Woolmer announced how pleased he was to be back at, not The Oval, but The 'Ovel. Many might agree, but Wooolmer (right) has cause to remember the place with fondness. A cricketer of many virtues, it was there that his all- round skills in the first-class game finally bore full fruit 18 years ago. Surrey needed 113 to beat Kent on the final afternoon and were approaching the target with ease and without loss of wicket. So, it was time for keeper Alan Knott to be given a rare bowl. Woolmer took the gloves and to Knott's third ball the batsman gave the charge. Alan Butcher was duly stumped Woolmer, bowled Knott for 53.

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