England’s One Test WondersDavid Taylor |
Author: Roderick Easdale
Rating: 3 stars
I bought this at a modest price on an internet auction site a couple of years ago – and I must confess I was a little disappointed when it arrived. But if I had done some research on the book before committing to buy, I would have known that it is nowhere near as comprehensive as the title suggests. You won’t find anything here about George Emmett, Charles Palmer or Alan Butcher – or anyone who made his only Test appearance before 1900. The thirty players featured begin with Fred Tate in 1902 and end with Norman ‘Buddy’ Oldfield in 1939. The exclusion of those capped in the first years of Test cricket is understandable to an extent. They included some of very modest ability who made their only appearances on privately organised tours, in particular in South Africa. Some of these individuals barely had a first-class career to speak of. While that makes them no less interesting, to some, than someone who represented a county for twenty years or more, information on them is unsurprisingly hard to come by.
The essays are not of uniform length. Tate, who, of course, was widely blamed for England’s narrow defeat at Old Trafford, gets 13 pages, while one of my favourites, the Kent googly bowler DW Carr, is allotted only five. Easdale tells us a little about the player’s career prior to his selection by England, his performance in his only Test (spelled, throughout, with a small ‘t’) and offers reasons as to why the selectors never came calling again. There are, of course, various reasons for this. Charlie Parker of Gloucestershire managed 3,278 wickets in first-class cricket, but he was notoriously difficult to get along with and of course he was a contemporary of Colin Blythe, Frank Woolley and Wilfred Rhodes. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott, arugably the most successful one-cap wonder of all, with 11 wickets in his only appearance against the 1933 West Indies, went on the winter tour to India without being selected for the Tests, and thereafter played only occasionally. Arnold Warren, pictured on the cover, took five wickets – starting with Victor Trumper – in the first innings against Australia at Headingley in 1905, but is said to have celebrated rather too well and, much less effective in the second innings, managed only one wicket as Australia saved the match comfortably. And Oldfield’s career, after hitting 80 and 19 on debut against the West Indies in 1939, was ended by the outbreak of war almost immediately afterwards.
In his concluding chapters Easdale does look at some later cases. He points out that players such as Butcher, Paul Parker, Neil Williams and Alan Wells were picked for the last home Test of the season, and, having failed to impress, didn’t make it onto the subsequent winter tour. In mentioning these more recent examples though he shows the need for a revised edition or sequel. The number of one cap wonders must have doubled since 1946, and England have more than anyone. Their story too should be told at some stage. Nevertheless, within its limitations this is a diverting read, and I certainly learned a few things about players who in many cases were little more than names in Wisden to me.