Brentwood Cricket Club International XI

This article was kindly contributed by Malcolm Webb, President Brentwood Cricket Club and originally published in the 2011 Lashings World XI Match Day Programme - which can also be viewed on the Club website.

This afternoon we have the pleasure of hosting the famous Lashings World XI.  A pretty impressive name that, for any cricket club.  With all due respect, the Lashings bit probably wouldn’t bother too many of us, but the “World” nomenclature could – and doubtless frequently does – strike the fear of God into those who seldom ply their sport beyond the village greens of their counties.  Small wonder that Lashings don’t lose too many games.

Well, we can’t match fire with fire in terms of being able to realistically (or even truthfully) call ourselves “Brentwood World XI”.  Even with the inclusion of our Overseas player it might just be putting us in breach of the Trades’ Description Act.

But we’ve had our moments in our 130-year history.  Oh yes, we’ve had a few Test players over the years.  Not as many in our entire history as Lashings will parade today, and most of them were even older than the most venerable of the Lashings contingent.  But there are (nearly) a team full who can (or could, if they were still alive) proudly state that they were members of Brentwood Cricket Club.

The history books reveal that the first Brentwood member to play for his country was A.P. “Bunny” Lucas.  Lucas was in fact the first captain of Essex after they achieved first-class status in 1894.  He also captained the MCC against the touring Australians at Lord’s in 1902.  But he never captained England, nor, as far as one can tell, Brentwood.

Interestingly, the first four Essex captains were all Brentwood players – Lucas,  H.G.P. Owen, Charles Kortright and F.L.Fane.  Fane also went on to play for - and captain - England.  He was born in Ireland, and his one and only Test century (against South Africa in 1906) remained the only instance of an Irishman scoring a Test century for England until Eion Morgan matched it last year against Pakistan.  And just to complete the Fane trivia, he was the first player to score a double century for Essex.

              Fane, Farns, Kortwright

Left to right: Fane, Farns & Kortwright (Photos: ESPN Crickinfo)

These four gentlemen covered the period from 1894 until the mid-1920’s, and they were joined for part of that time by Claude Buckenham, a fast bowler who played four Tests, all against South Africa in 1910.  The afore-mentioned Mr Fane also played in those four Tests, making that the only instance of two Brentwood players representing their country at the same time.

The fifth Brentwood player to play for England was Ken Farnes.  Ok, he only played for us for one season – 1930 – when he was nineteen, waiting to do National Service, and his Test career was still four years away, but according to legend he left his mark.  He was reckoned to be just about the quickest bowler in the country for a few years, and for reasons of what would nowadays be called “Health and Safety” he tended to throttle back a bit when bowling for Brentwood.  Except, apparently, when opposition batsmen seemed either surprised or disdainful at what they perceived to be his lack of pace and were foolish enough to comment upon it……….  Sometimes though, blind pace just wasn’t enough, as Farnes found to his cost in 1932 when, trying to impress all and sundry whilst playing for Essex against Yorkshire, he was taken for 75 in four overs by Herbert Sutcliffe and Maurice Leyland.

He took ten wickets in the match in his debut Test, against Australia in 1934, and without a doubt would have played more than fourteen Tests had the War not intervened.  He became a Pilot Officer and was tragically killed when his plane crashed in Oxfordshire returning from a night-flying exercise in 1941.

There then followed a massive gap of 61 years before a Brentwood player once again graced the Test arena.  The War didn’t help of course, and for four decades thereafter, Essex cricket was usually in the doldrums.  The County didn’t supply many Test cricketers in that time, and Brentwood certainly didn’t help their cause.  But after a number of years of being regarded as jolly nice chaps, mainly public schoolboys or professionals who had moved into the area, and usually pretty easy to beat, the 1990’s saw something of a resurgence in the Club, and we were lucky enough to be presented with Nick Knight by Essex, who wanted their prodigy to cut his teeth in club cricket on a decent batting track.  Nick duly filled his boots: he scored his first County Championship century for Essex whilst playing for Brentwood in 1991, and played the first of his seventeen Tests in 1995.        

                    Knight, Hamilton, Sammy

Left to right: Knight, Hamilton, Sammy. (Photos: ESPN crickinfo).

 

It is probably fair to say that Knight produced a bit more for Brentwood and England than did our next International.  Gavin Hamilton’s brother had moved into the area and joined us in the mid-1990’s, and he mentioned in passing that he might be able to get his kid brother to turn out for us when he wasn’t otherwise engaged.  Gavin at that time was on Yorkshire’s books but was yet to make his first-class debut.  His time with us was, shall we say, ‘fleeting’, and there is no confirmed record to show that his Brentwood career was any more successful than his England one (one Test; two innings; no runs; no wickets).  But he did go on to play 37 ODI’s for Scotland, the land of his birth.

Similarly brief was the Brentwood career of Darren Sammy, the current West Indies captain.  He got to know our current Club Captain, Jonathan Walford, who was at that time an MCC  Young Cricketer, when he landed a scholarship at Lord’s.  It was all set up for him to play for Brentwood, but the problem was that we already had an exceptional overseas player – Paul Sutherland – and we couldn’t really see Darren playing in the Two’s.  So his cricketing CV will record that he only managed to play for us on a Sunday in May.  Even that was better than his ODI debut for the Windies in 2004, though.  That match was abandoned without a ball being bowled.  But rules being rules, he still got a cap for it.  Which was more than he got from us.

Prior to the start of the 2005 season we were put in touch with an Indian cricketer of some pedigree by one of our Life Vice-presidents and former players, Danesh Khodayar.  The friend, who was a team mate of Danesh’s in Pune, had been playing club cricket in the north of England for a couple of years but rather fancied the idea of coming down south to warmer climes.  And so it came to pass that Hrishikesh Kanitkar joined us.  Hrishi knew no more about us than we did about him, and when he got cleaned out for a duck by a spotty 17-year-old in the first game of the season there was a certain amount of brow-furrowing.  Sixteen League matches and 1,066 runs later, we concluded that the 17-year-old had just got lucky.  Without a doubt the League had not seen the like of Hrishi before or since.  Unlike all our other Internationals who played their Test cricket after we had smoothed out their faults for them, Hrishi had played his three Tests and 30-plus ODI’s a few years before coming to us.  And he was pure class.

                   Kanitkar, Shillingford....Ashton?!

Left to right: Kanitkar, Shillingford....Ashton?!  (Photos: ESPN crickinfo)

 

By this time Brentwood CC were firmly on an upward curve, and on our drive into (and atop of) the Essex League Premier Division we acquired a variety of West Indian or Asian cricketers from season to season from various sources.  One of those, in 2008, was Shane Shillingford.  He was a bit of a punt, to be honest.  All we knew about him was that he came from a cricketing family and a cousin had played for another club in the Essex League.  He wasn’t the most garrulous or gregarious overseas player we’d ever had, but his bowling did the talking for him and he took 58 League wickets with his off-spin, which went a long way to ensuring our cementation in the top Division.  Nonetheless some of us were a little surprised when he got the call from the West Indies’ selectors, although his Test career seems to have stalled at the moment after five games whilst he tries to find a bowling action that satisfies Test umpires.

So there we are.  One short of a full side, so in the great tradition of club cricket we need to bring in a ‘ringer’ to make up the eleven.  And Hubert Ashton is the man.  Or Sir Hubert Ashton, KBE, MC to give him his full moniker.  He played sporadically for us in the years just after the Great War.  In fact he played for most of his clubs sporadically – and that might be why he never got the nod from the England selectors.  Certainly there was a public outcry when he was consistently overlooked during the 1921 series against the all-powerful Australian tourists.  And to add fuel to the fire, he was picked for an amateur side assembled by Archie MacLaren to play the Aussies under the name of “An England XI”.  He made 75 in the second innings and his side inflicted the only defeat suffered by the tourists.  But by the end of the following season he had got himself a proper job and played no more than a handful of games for anybody until the outbreak of the Second World War.  At least we know that dubious availability isn’t a new phenomenon.

Ten Test cricketers in our 130-year history.  Is that a lot, for one small amateur club, or not very many?  And will we have any more?  Probably yes – in terms of our overseas players.  But home grown?  Who knows?  Maybe – just maybe – a future England player will be on show today wearing Brentwood Cricket Club colours………..

Footnote: since the original article went to press Jason Holder - another of Brentwood Cricket Club's former overseas players - made his international one day debut for the West Indies against Australia in Perth.  

                                                       Jason Holder                                               Jason Holder (Photo: ESPNcrickinfo)

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