loving players

Autumn LeavesThe Edgbaston washout was an appropriate finish to the 2012 Wisden Trophy. England’s 2-0 win was another early-summer series where the home side forever threatened, but never quite succeeded, to overwhelm a limited opponent. Yet though the Tests missed real contest, they contained enough personal drama to make a memorable series.

Maybe the cliché is true and cricket does actually give a compelling window into the minds of those playing; or maybe it’s just because it takes so long, but the relationship between players and those watching them is oddly meaningful.

Neither Tino Best nor Graham Onions know who I am yet their return to Test cricket was genuinely pleasing. Likewise I don’t know Marlon Samuels but his charisma and class was a bright spot in a dank month. Even Dinesh Ramdin, a fairly anonymous sort, delivered and unforgettable moment. The series showed that, even where teams are mismatched, the fortunes of individuals players can create real sporting theatre.

As production technology allows analysis to become ever more detailed and technical it’s easy to overlook the emotional story that is at the heart of every contest. It’s what makes Ed Cowan’s book so refreshing. He describes, for instance, how being out of form “”

It’s worth reflecting on when thinking about Ramdin’s A4 scribbling. He was playing first Test series in two years. Having played professional cricket since he was 18, his Test runs are the barometer by which most people, and to an extent even the man himself, will judge his life. That note was testament to how important his hundred was. Not for the team performance, nor for a financial gain it may help secure, but for something more fragile, self-worth. It cannot be easy for West Indian cricketers playing out their existence in the shadow of a gargantuan past. It makes the ICC’s fine all the more staggering. Of all things bringing the game into disrepute, a player’s desperate pride should be the least of its worries.

Samuels is another who has faced criticism. His murky past has included bookmakers, chucking and years of unfulfilled talent. His runs were enjoyable not just for their style and their importance in the match but also because they were his redemption. That he also spoke a language humans, not PR gurus, could relate to made him all the more special.

With Samuels’s series-long adversary, James Anderson, rested Onions returned to the side. After a successful first day back he tweeted: “Today has been a special special day, I’ve had the most unbelievable support over the last 2 years to get me to put the 3 lions on again..” It was again testament to the personal that underpins the professional. Having reached the pinnacle of his sport in 2009, a back injury suddenly meant he faced the possibility of losing his livelihood altogether. Watching the finale of a long journey back made a dead Test much more significant. 

And then Tino. Despite limited ability he is one of the most magnetic cricketers around. Whether batting, bowling or fielding he is a one-man talk show and impossible to ignore. For two years he has pined on twitter for a chance again with West Indies and his jubilant, delirious return was something we could all celebrate.

It’s these individual stories that get contextualised through competition. While closely-fought contests are the obviously the most enjoyable, sometimes it’s nourishing just to share in someone else’s personal fulfilment.

Sussex v Surrey

Sussex broke through belated Surrey resistance to seal a 10-wicket victory in the dying overs at Horsham. Though the result looked close in the end, with the Rory Hamilton-Brown finding support from the Surrey tail to take the game to the final half hour, the difference through the match was actually much larger.


Surrey had been behind since surrendering their first innings on the opening day. Nonetheless, coming into the day on a benign surface with nine wickets in hand they stood a chance of seeing out a draw. Instead they slumped to 198 for 8 and at that stage looked like subsiding ingloriously. Yet Hamilton-Brown scrapped through 21 overs with John Lewis and Jade Dernbach to set nerves jangling among the home supporters.


With the overs ticking by tension, absent through the whole day, built alarmingly but Anyon burst through Hamilton-Brown’s defences to uproot off stump. A 160-ball 47 was a testimony to defiance from the Surrey captain, but he may wonder if greater intent might just have proved a better route to safety. Sussex needed 22 from the final six overs of the day, and the festival crowd, suitably lathered up after a day in the sun, cheered them all the way home.


For a batting team normally the reckless side of positive, Surrey were strangely subdued throughout. Hamilton-Brown’s bravado, that might have inspired a maverick counter-attack, was instead exchanged for a melancholic grit. Early on especially, he pushed and prodded and allowed Panesar to settle into a fine spell. A different approach may have delivered a different result.


It was Panesar’s best match of the summer. He looked sprightly last evening, after his giddy fun with the bat, and settled into a rhythm straight-away today. He would have wanted more than three wickets and but applied the tourniquet, with 21 maidens from 32 overs, from which Sussex built their breakthroughs.


Until the finale, Surrey never quite got to grips with the day. Mark Ramprakash began grimly, playing and missing his way to 9 from 70 balls, but having found some fluency – adding a further 28 in a hurry – he was pinned in front missing a sweep off Panesar. It was, though, Ramprakash’s highest score of the season and after using five different opening combinations in their previous eight games, Surrey will hope this one can remain for a while more.


Zander de Bruyn survived two chances but could not cash in, instead becoming the second player to be trapped lbw sweeping Panesar. Tom Maynard missed the previous day’s fielding after being involved in a car accident. He looked forlorn today, suffering his way through 35 balls for 5. He and Hamilton-Brown, who normally form one of the most exciting batting pairs in the Championship, could only muster 16 between them in the best part of 13 overs. Eventually Chris Nash ended Maynard’s misery. Nash has been a golden partnership breaker for Sussex and his entrance into the attack was greeted by an increasingly cheerful home crowd. By his sixth delivery, Nash proved the locals’ faith correct by trapping Maynard in front.


Farce followed when Hamilton-Brown was too late sending Gareth Batty back for a single towards mid-on, leaving Batty well short. Murali Kartik made it to tea before missing a gloriously rose-tinted swish and losing his off stump to the deserving Anyon. The victory chants were warming up in the crowd by then, but Sussex ran into tougher defence. After a 13 over stand, it took Nash, again, to remove Lewis, caught behind before, another tantalising wait later, Anyon finished the innings.


Defeat left Surrey still chasing a second win having lost three and drawn three since beating Sussex in the opening match of the season. That wait will now go for much longer since the Twenty20 season has arrived but Surrey may well welcome it. The second half of the Championship summer is when they found their form last year and drier pitches may suit their batting line-up more.


Sussex needed respite after successive defeats. As coach Mark Robinson admitted, they are remain a slightly callow team. “I think sometimes they lack a bit of self confidence but there is room in this team to grow. I think there is a lot more to come from us.” Victory will provide some of that assurance. When the second half of the season arrives, the scrap to avoid relegation will be compelling. Thanks to their win here, though, Sussex have probably avoided the pit. 

Sussex v Surrey day 3

Luke Wells withstood gale-force winds and all Surrey had to offer on his way to 127 that set up a sizeable first-innings lead for Sussex at Horsham. In the six overs of play possible on day two the home side lost four wickets, yet Surrey needed the best part of 93 more overs to prise out the final four as Sussex wrestled firm control of the match.


The leaden skies and swirling winds made for grim conditions that were at odds with the cheery efficiency of Sussex’s innings. It was led by Wells, whose 277-ball 127 spanned three days, and supported stoutly by the tail. For a batting side that has struggled of late, 87 for 6 to 351 all out was some come back.


The recovery pivoted on Wells’s second hundred of the season. That first also came against Surrey, but in defeat in the opening match of the summer. Since then his form tailed off badly and he was dropped when Luke Wright returned. His recall for this game came in place of Murray Goodwin. It’s a sizeable role to fill but with his fifth first-class century, he looked perfectly capable of doing so.


Wells is everything Surrey’s youthful batsmen are not and while he may not stir the Twenty20 scouts any time soon, he gives off an air of permanence Surrey’s top-order could never establish. He is still willowy but his height and calm demeanour will draw regular comparisons to Alastair Cook.


Despite his lengthy stay at the crease it’s difficult to recall him even playing and missing. There was one chance, though, when on 88 he edged Kartik to slip but Gareth Batty couldn’t hold on and that was as close as Surrey got until he was finally dismissed.


Meaker, so destructive amid showers on day two, strained and was pacey throughout but couldn’t find regular a length between pitch-up yorkers and pound-down short balls. Jade Dernbach was off-colour and irritable, yelling at himself on more than one occasion. Hamilton-Brown looked the part – chest puffed out as always – but couldn’t find a combination to nullify Wells and the Sussex tail. The pitch was no help, lacking both pace and the seam movement of the opening two days. But he didn’t try himself or Zander de Bruyn at any stage.


After Wells fell, edging an expansive drive to slip to give Kartik a fourth wicket, Surrey’s thoughts would have turned to batting. Instead they were subjected to an unexpected, but wholly delightful, 80-wicket stand for the last wicket. The sun even came out and together, James Anyon and Monty Panesar finally brought some festival lightness to the game. Anyon slugged the ball sweetly for his highest first-class score – an unbeaten 64 – while Panesar attracted cheers from everyone, including Kartik after one six down the ground, with boundary-filled 31. It was not the first time this season Surrey have burst through the opposition’s top order only to struggle with the tail.


A tough, all-day spell in the field was hardly the preparation Mark Ramprakash needed in his attempt to regain form. He struggled manfully – making 3 from 24 balls – but at least remained intact. Jason Roy was fluent, as he always is, but on 35 received a lifter from Steve Magoffin that he could only fend off to point.


Panesar, sufficiently buoyed by his fun with bat in hand, threatened with turn, bounce and fielders around the bat during his three overs before the close. With the forecast promising for Saturday Sussex have every chance of forcing a result. 

Sussex v Surrey day 1

Sussex bounced back from consecutive Championship defeats by dominating the first day against Surrey at Horsham. It being festival season, the weather was duly dour as dark clouds scudded overhead throughout and brought a premature end to play shortly after tea. Yet in the 63.2 overs possible, the home side lifted the mood by dismissing Surrey for 124 before easing towards parity on the back of Luke Wells’ unbeaten 33.


Given the kind of big-brand hype that led the Jubilee jamboree all weekend, there was a refreshing understatedness about festivities at Horsham. It is a club that pre-dates even the MCC but there was nothing old-fashioned about the pace of play as 12 wickets fell.


It may all be a touch futile for Sussex if the forecasts prove correct but it was a heartening performance from a team that needed a boost. In their last game at Lord’s, Sussex lost much of the match on the first morning, shipping 5 wickets for 66 before lunch. Here, against another neighbourhood rival, roles were reversed.


Steve Magoffin, in what could be his last game of the season for Sussex if Queensland have their way, and James Anyon took four wickets each as Surrey were unable to overcome the testing conditions.


In a team packed with impulsive young players, Surrey had recalled 42-year-old Mark Ramprakash and stuck him in as opener. It was asking a lot at this stage, though Ramprakash will rue his luck having been left out of the side during the brief spell of sunshine the English summer has delivered.


He struggled against Magoffin in particular and it was sadly inevitable when he feathered a good ball behind for 8. It was the sixth time this season he’s fallen in single figures. Meanwhile Sussex’s struggling veteran, Murray Goodwin, was dropped for the first time in his 11-year career at the club. Both are county giants who deserve to leave the game on a high, but neither may get the chance.


At least Ramprakash can claim to have been got out. His opening partner, Jason Roy, gifted his wicket before him, toe-ending a golf-swing to mid-on for 11. Zander de Bruyn and Rory Hamilton-Brown fell in successive deliveries to James Anyon and when Steven Davies was smartly snaffled by a diving Wells at second slip Surrey had lost three wickets in seven balls.


Maynard responded with the kind of gung-ho zeal that has characterised his season, clumping three boundaries and running positively, but fell just before he could really inflict damage, edging a good Anyon delivery to slip for 17.


Though Anyon and Magoffin had equal success, Magoffin was the better of the two. He may lack Anyon’s pace but compensates with consistent bounce and hostile accuracy. With Naved Arif, Anyon and backup Amjad Khan all profligate operators, Magoffin miserliness would be missed.


At 52 for 6, Surrey looked in danger of subsiding below 100 but the tail rallied through Gareth Batty, John Lewis and Murali Kartik. They added 69 between them, Batty top-scoring with 32, before Sussex mopped things up after lunch. It may be that among the glittering shot-makers, Surrey might need to buy some grit from somewhere.


Though 124 looked grim, the ball had done enough to give Surrey’s strong pack of pacemen plenty reason for hope. Throughout the season Surrey have fought back from adversity. Despite Ed Joyce swishing outside off to fall cheaply, however, the visitors couldn’t make significant inroads this time.


Instead Wells, returning to the side after being dropped for Luke Wright’s return, calmly – and at times elegantly – dented the edge off Surrey’s attack. He left well when he needed to and drove crisply when invited, and together Chris Nash shared a 69-run stand for the second wicket. Despite the drizzle that stalked the day, Surrey’s bowlers couldn’t extract much and it was a shock when Nash donated his wicket to Kartik, swinging against the spin to end caught at point for 38. Perhaps he felt a touch chilly.


If he had just waited another four balls, though, he could have returned to the pavilion with his wicket intact. The rain set in once more and that was it for the day. 


Brash, insecure and breathtaking Kevin Pietersen is one of the most exciting batsmen ever to play for England. His lust for boxoffice performance makes him a matchwinner in all forms of the game but his ability to put bums on seats is only matched by his ability to divide opinion.


Despite his overwhelming success for England, Pietersen has never won complete affection from either the English cricket board or public. Both are wary of Pietersen’s origins – he only left South Africa as a young man in protest against the quota-system – and of his habit of speaking his mind. Alongside that is a cocksure front, unappetising to many England fans, that betrays a more vulnerable personality.


His England career began in a low-key one-day series in Zimbabwe in 2004 before launching spectacularly soon after in South Africa. With the crowd in his former homeland baying for blood Pietersen produced three audacious centuries. Test cricket beckoned with the 2005 Ashes the following summer. Pietersen started with two half-centuries at Lord’s, then sealed the return of the urn after 17 years with a stroke-filled 158 at The Oval. The next five years were a whirl of runs and celebrity engagements, plus a ill-fated tilt at the England captaincy. He started with a century and victory against South Africa at The Oval in 2008, but it was as close as he ever got acceptance from the establishment. Early the following year he a fell-out with the coach, Peter Moores. Pietersen recommended, rather too publicly, that Moores be removed … and got his way, only to be summarily sacked as well. His relationship with the ECB never recovered and the flak probably affected Pietersen more than he cared to admit.


Alongside brushes with management – a feature in all the teams he has played for – injuries have interrupted him at key moments. His 2009 Ashes campaign was cut short by leg trouble that needed surgery and he left the 2011 World Cup with a hernia. Having always spoken out against the volume of international cricket, murmurs then began that Pietersen may quit the shorter-formats in order to protect his body and bolster his bank balance through playing Twenty20 franchise cricket. He is one of the IPL’s most expensive stars so it was not entirely unexpected when, in 2012, Pietersen announced his retirement from one-day international cricket. Though he wanted to play Twenty20 cricket for England, the ECB decided it could not let him cherry-pick formats.

It was another chapter of controversy in a career that has had many. Yet on the field, in whatever format, Pietersen can dominate any attack, and is the wicket England’s opponents crave the most. Though his commitment is forever questioned Pietersen has always stated his ambition for 10,000 Test runs, 30 centuries and a Test average of 50. If he gets there he will stand among England’s greats. 

Strauss, Tremlett, Magoffin


With a 6ft 7inch frame that looks cut from stone, Chris Tremlett is a hulking quick bowler of immense ability. His body gives him all the ingredients – pace, bounce and accuracy – to be a world-class fast-bowler but has also let down over and again as injuries have curtailed his Test career.

He is part of the strong pack of fast-bowlers that have led England to the top of the world rankings and, after four years out of the Test side, Tremlett starred in England’s away Ashes win taking xxx at xxx, which included the Ashes winning wicket to end 24-years of waiting.

An outstanding home series the following summer against Sri Lanka promoted comparisons with Joel Garner but, having broken into the top ten rankings, back injury ruled him out of three Tests against India in 2011. Though he played a Test in UAE against Pakistan the following winter he was not fully fit and had surgery to remedy his back problems soon after. Many believed that would be the end of his international career but he is confident he can return.

Tremlett comes from an esteemed cricketing family. He is the son of Tim Tremlett, the former Hampshire seamer, and the grandson of Maurice, who played for Somerset and England in the 1940s and 50s. He took a wicket with his first ball of first-class cricket, against New Zealand A in 2000 and after impressing for Hampshire made the England Under-19 tour of India in 2000-01, and a place in the first batch of Rod Marsh’s academy intakes in 2001-02.

An impressive start to the 2004 season with Hampshire earned him a call up to England’s preliminary squad for the ICC Champions Trophy, and the following year he was named in England’s new 25-man development squad, ahead of the 2005 Ashes. He made his one-day debut during the 2005 NatWest Series – and was denied a hat-trick against Bangladesh only because the ball bounced off middle stump without dislodging the bails. Despite his domestic performances tailing off in the second half of the 2005 season and a suspicion that he tended to lose rhythm under pressure, Tremlett earned a call-up to the England squad for Pakistan before a hamstring injury ruled him out.

It set the precedent for his international career. After injuries hampered international ambitions in 2006 he was named in the academy to be based in Perth during that winter’s Ashes series, and was asked to join the squad for the subsequent one-day series. Though a surprising success for England it was a forgettable series for Tremlett, ended by another injury setback, which then delayed the start to his 2007 season.

However, once back on the field he impressed enough to earn a call to the England Lions squad and was handed his Test debut against India at Lord’s. Troubling the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up with uncomfortable bounce and lively pace, he looked set to be a key man as England looked to forge a new attack after the 2005 generation. Instead injury struck once more.

After missing the 2007-08 winter tours he was included in England’s ODI squad to face Scotland but a heel injury ended his hopes. After a frustrating 2009 season, where he played seven Championship matches, he left Hampshire for Surrey. It was a move that worked wonders and, after taking 48 Championship wickets, he earned a recall for the Ashes tour, that established his reputation as a high-class quick. 


Upstanding, self-effacing and privately educated, Andrew Strauss is the archetypical England captain. He is also fast becoming their most successful.
His understated authority underpinned England's rise to the top of the world rankings - for the first time since 31 years - in a journey that included a home Ashes win in 2009, an even sweeter victory in Australia that was 24 years in the making and a 4-0 whitewash to topple India off the top of the world rankings in 2011. 
A compact left-handed opener Strauss is severe on the cut shot, efficient off his pads and workmanlike everywhere else. Though most comfortable with pace on the ball Strauss made two centuries against an Australian attack that included Shane Warne in 2005 and tenacious back-to-back hundreds in the same Test in Chennai in 2008. 

His early county cricket with Middlesex did not exactly suggest a star in the making, but a century in 2003 against Lancashire, with Andrew Flintoff haring in, set the selectors sniffing - and also made Strauss believe he had what it took. After a few one-day caps that winter Strauss was called up for the first Test against New Zealand in 2004 after Michael Vaughan twisted his knee in the Lord's nets. Strauss responded with a confident century, and was on his way to another in the second innings when Nasser Hussain ran him out 17 short. But Hussain had seen enough: with Vaughan set to return, he announced his immediate retirement and Strauss's England career was set. 
Strauss flirted with captaincy in 2006 - he memorably dubbed himself "the stand-in for the stand-in" in the absence of the injured Vaughan and Flintoff - leading England to victory at home against Pakistan. Universally admired by his team-mates, it now seems bizarre that a natural leader would ever be overlooked for the captaincy but that's exactly what happened for the 2005-06 Ashes. Flintoff was chosen instead as England flunked to 5-0 loss. It was the first disappointment in his Test career and instigated a slump in form that saw him go 15 matches without a Test hundred. With his England spot looking desperately insecure he produced a eight-hour 177, his highest Test score, to seal a series win in Napier and salvage his career. 

His form flooded back and when Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores fell out spectacularly, England turned to the steadiest pair of hands. He forged a partnership with new coach Andy Flower in 2009 and the 'Andocracy' has since reached almost hallowed status. 

During the early part of his England career hundreds came apace – with 10 in his first 30 games – but captaincy, as it so often does, dented his form. Despite centuries in the 2009 and 2010-11 Ashes, Strauss struggled elsewhere and when England lost four consecutive Tests in the 2011-12 winter, murmurings began about his future. But Strauss stayed true to himself – affable, calm and respectful - and began the 2012 season with two hundreds against West Indies to put him within touching distance of the most by an England batsman.

Thin, tall and fast, Steve Magoffin is a successful Western Australian import who has stepped comfortably into the first-class arena since leaving Queensland. With the state’s bowling stocks faltering, the Warriors looked to Magoffin, who was a Queensland Academy of Sport player, and he made his debut in 2004-05, playing every Pura Cup match and adding 28 wickets at 35.10. At 194cm, Magoffin has a similar frame to his mentor Greg Rowell, the former Australia A bowler, and he is an especially intimidating prospect on the WACA. He can also swing the ball and has been responsible for big hauls, including a career-best 8 for 47 against South Australia in 2005-06. He finished that season with 25 victims at 25.52 and then spent the winter in England, where he starred against the touring Sri Lankans with 4 for 14 in their warm-up game against the Sir Paul Getty XI.

Magoffin continued his impressive run in 2006-07 with 33 wickets at 27.57 and he was equal third on the FR Cup tally with 15 victims at 23.73. The wickets kept coming the following summer when he picked up 35 in the Pura Cup at 25.48 and was the state’s leading FR Cup bowler with 14 victims at 27.21. A successful spell with Worcestershire followed for Magoffin, who went even higher after another strong home campaign. Having captured 38 breakthroughs in the 2008-09 Sheffield Shield, he was flown to South Africa as a stand-by player for the injury-hit national squad.

Magoffin is a regular in County cricket and had spells at Leicestershire, Worcestershire and Surrey before signing with Sussex ahead of the 2012 season. He was an immediate success there taking 7 for 37 in his debut for the county to deliver Sussex victory over Lancashire.

A level two coach, Magoffin was a consistent wicket-taker for Queensland in the national 2nd XI competition before moving west despite being offered a contract with his home state. He was a part-time Academy scholarship holder in 2001 and wishes he could play the guitar.

Middlesex profiles

Neil Dexter

Neil Dexter emerged on the county scene as another of Kent’s Kolpak-qualified South African contingent in the Summer of 2005. A batting allrounder of considerable talent, he made an instant impact, hitting 79* on debut against Nottinghamshire. Towards the end of the 2008 season, he turned down a three-year contract with the county and signed for Middlesex. His Middlesex debut came in the infamous Stanford Super Series in the Caribbean, but Dexter showed he had the talent for four-day cricket too as he averaged 41.70 with the bat in 2009 and an even more impressive 47.73 in 2010. Around him, Middlesex were struggling, however, and when Shaun Udal resigned from the captaincy early in 2010 the position eventually landed in Dexter’s hands. Alongside the thoughtful guidance of Angus Fraser as cricket director, Dexter led Middlesex to the Division Two title in 2011. Early in the 2012 season, he relinquished the captaincy to concentrate on regaining his consistent batting form. Sam Collins 2012


Gareth Berg

A bustling brisk seam bowler, Gareth Berg learned his cricket in South Africa, playing a handful of one-day games for Western Province B, before moving to live in England. In 2004 he played for Northamptonshire 2nd XI without breaking into the first team, and in 2007 was signed for Middlesex, again turning out for the 2nd XI. In the 2008 pre-season he took five wickets against England Under-19 on his home ground at Radlett, gaining him his first team debut. His game has developed with age and in 2011 his allround ability helped Middlesex win promotion as averaged 41.87 with the bat and 19.96 with the ball. Despite his ancestry, he is not a Kolpak player because of his long-term residency in England.


Corey Collymore

Barely fast-medium, averaging in the mid to high 70s, Corey Collymore is a fairly accurate and aggressive, with the benefit of years of experience. His sprint to the crease is reminiscent of Malcolm Marshall’s, but, unlike Marshall, his open-chested deliveries seem to limit his ability to move the ball away from the right-hander. His misfortune has been the plague of modern fast bowlers: stress fractures. Yet he is a determined man, who recovered from back injuries when critics had written him off at the end of West Indies’ tour of England in 2000, and thus fulfilled his promise to be back in the game. He took four wickets on his return to the one-day side in Zimbabwe in 2001, as West Indies beat India in the final of the Coca-Cola Cup, and after a moderately successful World Cup in 2003, he was recalled to the Test team for the home series against Sri Lanka. He responded with five wickets in the drawn first Test, and a second-innings haul of 7 for 57 in the second, as West Indies sealed a seven-wicket victory. From there on, he was shunted in and out of the squad, before being included half-way through the Test series for his experience. He shared the new ball with younger speed merchants, and though he put the ball in the right place, his inability to put fear in the hearts of batsmen meant that he was expensive and ineffective on the tour to England. Against India at home in 2006, however, Collymore pegged away all through the series, providing a valuable tourniquet at one end. He was way ahead of the other fast bowlers in terms of his economy-rate (2.33) and always appeared capable of taking a wicket. His spell on the first morning at Antigua floored India and, despite not looking fully fit, maintained his accuracy throughout. He played only eight international games in the 2006-07 season and averaged over 30 but just ahead of the selection for World Cup he rocked Jamaica with a six-for in the Carib series. He failed to carry that form into the tournament itself but still found himself briefly in the top 10 of the ICC Test rankings. In 2008, he replaced Ryan Harris at Sussex, joining the club as a Kolpak and he performed with distinction on the south coast before moving to Middlesex at the end of the 2010 season. Vaneisa Baksh 


Steven Crook

An Australian-born skiddy seam bowler and hard-hitting lower-order batsmen, Steven Crook started his first-class career at Lancashire but had limited chances to show his worth. After a loan move to Northamptonshire at the end of the 2005 season, he made it a permanent switch for 2006 where he has earned greater chances in the one-day arena. Injury has ravaged much of his time at Northants but he has found other outlets to express himself: he is lead singer of the band Juliet the Sun. At the end of the 2011 season he was released by Northants but signed for Middlesex. Sam Collins


Josh Davey

Josh Davey is a Scotland international and Middlesex batting allrounder. He made his Scotland debut as a 19-year-old in 2010, opening the batting in an ODI against Netherlands having made his first-team Middlesex debut earlier in the summer. His start to first-class cricket was a pair of fifties against Oxford MCCU. Despite having played CB40 cricket for Middlesex he represents Scotland in the tournament normally. Despite being predominantly a top-order batsman Davey possesses the best ODI figures for Scotland – 5 for 9 – which he picked up against Afghanistan in his fourth ODI.


Joe Denly

Joe Denly is gifted top-order batsman who he flirted with international cricket without ever convincing. A product of the Kent youth system, having been with the county since the age of 13, he made his debut in 2004 against Oxford University. He served notice of his considerable talent with three half centuries in three Tests whilst touring India with England Under-19 in 2005. He captained both Kent Second XI and the ECB Development of Excellence XI team, and scored his maiden first-class hundred against Cambridge University in 2006. The release of David Fulton opened up a place in the Kent top order, which Denly took with both hands during the first part of the 2007 season. His prolific form caught the eye of England’s selectors and he was named in the England Lions side to face India. The 2008 summer again kept him in the frame, especially in one-day cricket, where he enjoyed an impressive Twenty20 tournament. But it was in 2009, after averaging 51.85 in the Friends Provident Trophy, that Denly got his international call-up – the one-day squad to play Australia. He had his moments opening the batting but struggled for consistency and, like many before him, then suffered a lengthy domestic slump and was pushed out of national contention. At one stage he went nearly two years without a Championship hundred. Sensing a need to revive his career he left Kent at the end of 2011 and moved to Middlesex. Sam Collins May 2011


Anthony Ireland

Anthony Ireland is a tall fast-medium seamer from the Midlands area of Zimbabwe. After some opportunities at junior levels, Ireland decided to improve his game in club cricket in England, and after the player rebellion of 2004 was given more opportunities to perform in Logan Cup cricket, and was included in the national team squad the following year. He struggled on his first tour, to West Indies, breaking his left hand in practice at the start of the programme. When he recovered, he struggled with his length and tended to bowl too short, which proved fatal against batsmen as adept with the pull as most West Indians. He secured a more regular place at the end of 2006 and was included in Zimbabwe’s World Cup squad, although he made only one appearance. To the chagrin of many in Zimbabwe cricket circles, he retired from international cricket on the team’s return home, and soon after signed a two-year deal with Gloucestershire. While he enjoyed moderate success with the county, it surprised many when he returned to play in Zimbabwe’s revamped domestic Twenty20 competition in February 2010. It remains to be seen whether a comeback to the national side is a possibility, but his county career took him to Middlesex after the 2010 season where, among a strong group of pacemen, he hasn’t been able to nail down regular first-team cricket. Steven Price


Adam London

Middlesex’s Adam London had his first taste of Ashes cricket aged 21, as a substitute fielder for Kevin Pietersen in the second day at Lord’s in 2009. He is a left-handed batsman who graduated through Middlesex’s youth system and is described by Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, as a “ a committed, capable and exciting young cricketer.” He made his Championship debut against Gloucestershire in 2009 but is yet to command a regular first-team place.


Dawid Malan

Dawid Malan is a gifted, aggressive left-handed batsman who is yet to fulfil his early promise. Born in Roehampton but brought up in South Africa, he made his first-class debut for Boland in 2005-06. In 2006 he played Second XI cricket for both Middlesex and Worcestershire, making his first-team debut for Middlesex in front of 20,000 people in a Twenty20 Cup match at The Oval. He struggled to find a first-team spot the following season, but in 2008 took his chance with both hands. An impressive run in the Twenty20 earned him a place in the Championship side, where he scored his maiden century against Northamptonshire. However, it was back in Twenty20 where he really put his marker down with a breathtaking 103 off 51 balls in the quarter-final against Lancashire, an innings that helped cement his place in the England Performance Squad in November. However, as so often happens he struggled to back-up that season and 2009 was a tough campaign form him and he is yet to re-establish his credentials.


Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan is an Irish-born Englishman with a reputation for inventive and audacious strokeplay. At the age of 23, he shot to prominence on the back of two match-winning innings against South Africa. First was a 34-ball 67 in the Champions Trophy in September 2009 which he followed two months later with an unbeaten 45-ball 85 in the opening Twenty20 of England’s tour of South Africa. His bold approach and crisp hitting was reminiscent of the arrival of another English import, Kevin Pietersen, in 2005. With a blend of nous and power, Morgan looks a natural “finisher” – a role England have struggled to fill for a decade.

A compact left-hander, Morgan grew up playing hurling and with his sweeps and pulls, he has clearly taken aspects of the Irish sport into his cricket. He gained initial recognition with Ireland, averaging 52.20 in the World Cricket League, including his first ODI century, a sublime 115 from 106 balls against Canada. In the 2007 World Cup, as his team-mates impressed, Morgan disappointed with 91 runs from nine games. He joined his fellow Anglo-Irishman, Ed Joyce, at Middlesex in 2006, where he helped them to the Twenty20 Cup victory in 2008 and caught the eye of the England selectors.

His growing stature was confirmed when he was the only England player to be awarded a new contract at the auction for the third season of the IPL in January 2010. He was signed for $220,000 by Bangalore, where he joined England team-mate Kevin Pietersen. With much expected he failed to make an impression and was soon left on the substitutes bench. But he returned to his best for England in the World Twenty20 that followed, as his powerful shot-making and coolness under pressure helped him to 183 runs and helped England to their first triumph in global limited-overs events.

It was enough to prove he had the mettle to take his game a step higher and despite a modest first-class record he was rewarded with a surprise call-up to the Test side for England’s first Test of the 2010 summer, against Bangladesh. Walking out to bat at 258 for 4, he could not have asked for a gentler introduction and showed enough confidence to pick up his first Test boundary with a reverse-sweep.

And with the retirement of Paul Collingwood, a permanent space opened up in England’s Test side.

Morgan pipped Ravi Bopara for selection for the first Test of the English summer in 2011 and made 362

runs in 10 innings against Sri Lanka and India. But Morgan endured a disastrous tour of the UAE, scoring 180 runs at 16.36 across three Tests, four ODIs and three T20s against Pakistan and was dropped from England’s touring party to Sri Lanka in March 2012. Sahil Dutta

Tim Murtagh

Tim Murtagh is a bustling swing bowler who a marching run-up. His pace is lively without being express but has become a valued member of Middlesex’s attack. Though now a stalwart at Lord’s, he actually came through Surrey’s age-group sides and was a member of the England Under-19 squad during the 1999 World Cup, subsequently touring Sri Lanka with a British Universities side in 2002. He battled his way into the Surrey side, and in 2005 took a competition-best 6 for 24 in a Twenty20 tie against Middlesex at Lord’s. Nevertheless, he moved north of the river to Lord’s in 2007 where he felt his opportunities would be greater. And they were. Consistent in all forms of cricket, and with a liking for the big occasion, he took 104 wickets in all three formats in 2008. Surprisingly, he was overlooked for the England development squad, but had his chance to shine in Middlesex’s trip to Antigua for the Stanford 20/20 for 20. Together with Steven Finn he led Middlesex’s attack in 2011 helping them win promotion with 80 wickets at 20.98.

Ravi Patel

Ravi Patel is a slow-left-arm bowler on Middlesex’s books. A product of the expensive, picture-perfect pastures at Merchant Taylors’ school he then continued his cricket development while studying Economics at Loughborough University. He’s been through Middlesex’s youth system and his cricketing hero is Murali Karthik. He made his first-class debut against Oxford MCCU in 2010 and will be hoping to challenge Ollie Rayner for a regular first-team spot.

Ollie Rayner

Ollie Rayner a German-born, extremely tall offspiner. He makes the best of his build with a high arm action. The only thing he lacks is real spin on the ball. After graduating from the Sussex and ECB academies Ollie Rayner signed a contract with Sussex in November 2005. Although primarily an offspinner, he became the first Sussex player since 1920 to score a century on debut when he scored 101 against the touring Sri Lankans in 2006. His main chance, though, came following the retirement of Mushtaq Ahmed in 2008 as he became the club’s frontline spinner. By the end of the season he had done enough to earn a call-up to the England Performance Squad. That was, though, a high-point. His form tailed off in 2009 and his 2010 season was curtailed by the arrival of Monty Panesar at Hove. Rayner joined Middlesex on loan in 2011 prospering enough to be rewarded with a three-year deal.

Sam Robson

Australian-born Sam Robson is an unlikely record holder. He has made the earliest first-class hundred ever witnessed in the UK, for Middlesex against Durham MCCU before March was out in 2012. Robson bowls occasional legspin having played for New South Wales Under-19s in 2006. He made a Championship debut for Middlesex in 2009 and in 2011 helped Middlesex to promotion with 903 runs at 53.11.

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers holds the rare record of scoring a double-century against his own country. Playing for Leicestershire in 2005, Rogers opened the batting against the Australians and posted 56 and 219 despite chat from Matthew Hayden, who said he should get out to benefit the national team. In 2007-08 he took Hayden’s Test place when the Queenslander was injured for the third game against India in Perth. Rogers scored 4 and 15 and by the end of the summer had lost his Cricket Australia contract and left Western Australia for Victoria. He was frustrated at constantly being left out of the Warriors’ one-day side and his Pura Cup form was down slightly, although his output of 744 runs at 43.76 was still respectable. At Victoria, he continued his prolific run-scoring, collecting 1195 at 74.68 and finishing second on the competition tally, as well as producing a century in the first innings of their successful final. He also found a regular one-day place and was Victoria’s leading scorer in the format with 448 runs and five half-centuries. The following season brought a one-day career-best 140 as well as 641 Sheffield Shield runs, although he missed the triumphant first-class final due to a broken hand.

Rogers was handed a national deal after leading the 2006-07 domestic first-class run-list. That collection started with 279 – his stand of 459 with Marcus North was the third highest in Australian interstate history – and he finished with 1202 at 70.70, which earned him the State Player of the Year and Pura Cup Player of the Series prizes. In the previous season he topped Western Australia’s table with 794 at 41.78, including two hundreds and four fifties. After compiling 259 runs in the one-day competition, he was picked for Australia A’s Top End winter series. A regular in England – he took over the Derbyshire captaincy during a prolific 2008 and joined for Middlesex in 2011 – he amassed 1352 runs for Northamptonshire in 2006, including a personal-best of 319 against Gloucestershire. Rogers had a particularly strong season when he raised four Pura Cup hundreds in 2003-04, but recoveries from shoulder and hamstring operations hampered him the following summer, although he still managed to pass 600 first-class runs and appear for the Prime Minister’s XI.

Strangely, Rogers is short-sighted and colour blind, which means he sometimes struggles to focus on the red ball when it mixes with the background. Ginger-haired and tenacious, he possesses a fine cricketing pedigree. His father John represented New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield in the late 1960s and later became a respected administrator, ultimately assuming a post as general manager of the Western Australian Cricket Association. Rogers’ future looked promising ever since he was selected for the Australian Under-19 team in 1996 but despite Australia struggling for opening batsmen after Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden moved on, he missed the boat for an international career.

Adam Rossington

Adam Rossington is described by his county’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, as “one of the most promising young batsmen-wicketkeepers in the country”. A product of both Middlesex’s youth teams and the expensive Mill Hill school in North London, Rossinton hit 161 in his first Second XI innings for Middlesex, against Northamptonshire in 2009. A first-class debut followed the next season and he was part of England’s Under-19s that summer against Sri Lanka. He was awarded a two-year deal at Middlesex ahead of the 2012 season.

Gurjit Sandhu

Gurjit Sandhu is a middle-order batsman and left-arm seamer who has been with Middlesex since Under-15s. He is from the same Hounslow School, Isleworth and Syon, as former Middlesex batsman Owais Shah. Sandhu made his first-class debut against the touring Sri Lankans in 2011.

Tom Scollay

Tom Scollay was born in Australia and has played cricket in Northern Territory before coming to England.

John Simpson

An enthusiastic cricketer from an early age, John Simpson played first-team Lancashire league cricket for Haslingden when only ten years old. From then on he seemed destined to play professional cricket, having represented Lancashire in every age group from Under-11 upwards, and earning his first call-up to Engand’s Under-19 squad for the 2005 tour of Bangladesh and impressing enough to gain a place in the World Cup squad. A wicketkeeper-batsman, he was taken on as an MCC Young Cricketer in 2008 and impressed Middlesex enough to be given a contract until the end of 2009. He spent the 2008-09 winter at the Darren Lehmann Academy. After a quiet 2010 season he impressed, along with the rest of his team-mates, in 2011 to help Middlesex win promotion with 869 runs at 43.45.

Tom Smith

Despite his relative youth Tom Smith is already something of a South East journeyman having having grown up in and played for Sussex, before a spell at Surrey and signing for Middlesex in 2009. He is a right-handed batsman and left-arm spinner and was named in the ECB Performance Programme in the same year he joined Middlesex. He has had limited opportunities but been unable to grab any of them so far.

Paul Stirling

Paul Stirling is one of the most promising young cricketers in Ireland. In 2010 he was named He is a top-order right-handed batsman who has already played for the senior team in both 50-over and 20-over cricket. Stirling was part of Ireland’s team that performed well at the World Twenty20 in England in 2009 and signed three-year deal with Middlesex in December 2009, where he’ll join fellow Irish-born batsman Eoin Morgan. Unlike Morgan, Stirling is firmly committed to playing for Ireland. Although he admires Ricky Ponting, his free-scoring approach and generous build invokes comparison to Jesse Ryder. In his fourth ODI for Ireland he made a 92-ball 84 against Kenya and followed up with a 26-ball 30 against England two games later. In 2010 he made a 134-ball 177 for Ireland against Canada in which remains the highest ODI score ever made by an Irishman. He is yet to convert his limited-overs potential into consistent first-class scores but has plenty of time on his side to develop.

Ollie Wilkin

Ollie Wilkin is a right-handed batting allrounder who bowls medium-pace. He has pretensions to bowl quicker and has been with Middlesex since Under-13s. He developed his game at Ealing club and studied Materials Engineering at Loughborough University where he played three first-class games.

Robbie Williams

Rob Williams is a six-foot medium pacer who graduated out of Durham MCCU and played second team cricket for Middlesex in 2005 and 2006. A Championship debut followed the following summer where he opened the bowling alongside Steve Finn against Essex and took 5 for 112. He missed the entire 2008 summer with a stress fracture to the back and didn’t play a first-class game for Middlesex between 2009 and 2011.