Party time for the one-cap wonders

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
It will be an exclusive club, always uncertain where its next member is coming from. This summer it may have acquired an addition to its register but then again it may not. Its membership is dependent purely on the preferences of others.

As its founder mused last week: "Membership is a privilege but once you are in, the best thing that can happen is to be out again." This is of course the One-Test Wonders (OTW), the organisation for those who have played once for England in a Test match and never again.

The total number of such players in the 729 matches England have played in the past 119 years is 83. Of these, 21 are still living, eight are still playing and two will have to wait awhile to be invited to join the OTW because they received their solitary caps thus far only this season. (In the latter regard, the smart money says that Robert Croft will definitely garner others but that Simon Brown may not.)

"It's nothing more than a bit of fun. I thought it would be pleasant to get all the one-cap guys together to talk about our experiences," said OTW founder, John Stephenson, captain of Hampshire, who was still with Essex when he played against Australia in 1989, scoring 25 and 11. "I want to organise a team for charity matches as well."

Stephenson may struggle for a bona fide side. Of the 19 invited to join, 11 are under 50, two are in their 70s and four in their 80s. The oldest is Holcombe Douglas "Hopper" Read, 86, the former Essex bowler who appeared against South Africa at The Oval (six for 200) in 1935 and the youngest is Stephenson, 31.

Given the talk of selectorial continuity which is in the air, new members may be hard to come by. It may be possible to swell the ranks by offering honorary membership to Test cricketers who gained one international cap in other sports (M J K Smith, rugby, and Arthur Milton, football, for instance) or, if a playing shortage looms, opening the doors to Two-Test Wonders. The latter number 67, of whom 27 are still living.

Most of the two-cap brigade played in successive matches before being discarded. The longest gap between matches was achieved by Les Jackson, the virtuoso Derbyshire seam bowler who played in 1949 and not again until 1961, while the wicketkeeper Keith Andrew waited nine years between 1954 and 1963. The most recent two-cappers were Mark Lathwell and Martin Bicknell (1993) though it is being generally assumed that Min Patel (1996) will have to start spinning like a top to get a third.

The OTW is being launched with a party at Stephenson's harbourside flat in Southampton and will be filmed for Gower's Cricket Monthly. About half the eligible members will attend, the most senior being Dick Richardson, 62, who made 33 against West Indies in 1957.

"There should be some fascinating stories to tell," said Stephenson, "but I still haven't given up hope of surrendering my membership."

AS Derbyshire took on Somerset last week in pursuit of their second Championship, there was an excuse to reflect on their first in 1936. Sixty years and a week ago, during a tense run-in, Somerset beat Derbyshire for the second time that summer. Derby lost only four times in all, only Somerset did the double.

In that second contest, Arthur Wellard drove the reserve left-arm spinner Tom Armstrong for five successive sixes, then "a feat considered a record", said Wisden. Nothing similar happened last week, but Derbyshire only drew, which both in a historical and contemporary context may be a bad omen.

BY the time he returns from the winter tours, Michael Atherton will have led England in 40 Tests, one behind Peter May's record. He is already one of 22 players who have been captain of their countries in more than 30 Tests. Giving two points for a win, one for a draw, he has a success rate of 42.8 per cent, putting him ahead of only three in that list: John Reid, the Nawab of Pataudi and David Gower. He is, so far, 52nd in the list of all 71 England captains.

Disappointing information about the compilation album of cricket songs being produced to raise funds for the Lord's Taverners. Scheduled for private release in six months, it will not be on sale for a year, if at all. As the record is likely to include Don Bradman playing piano numbers like "Every Day Is A Rainbow Day For Me", demand should surely ensure general release.

One-man stand

Dmitri Mascarenhas, who took nine wickets in an extraordinary debut for Hampshire last week, made a telling disclosure afterwards. This cosmopolitan cricketer (he was born in England of Sri Lankan parents who emigrated to Australia when he was 18 months old) said: "It's been quite a week for me which I didn't expect. I came over here to play club cricket like I do in Perth. But I'll still have no chance at all of being in the Western Australian side for the Sheffield Shield when I go back to Oz this winter."