5 England players who had a great first class career but didn’t shine in Test cricket


For any cricketer, making it into Test cricket is a daunting task that demands a lot of discipline, hard work and sacrifices. But, to last in international cricket, living up to the expectations of the country and overcoming the sheer pressure at the highest level of the game is a different thing altogether.

Nothing pains a true cricket fan more than unfulfilled potential, a youngster who has the talent but fails to achieve anything great. But sadly, potential is not always converted into performance.

England, over the years, has gifted many special players to the world of cricket. The likes of Geoffrey Boycott, David Gower, Graham Gooch and Ian Botham have had inspiring careers and spread the glory of the game we love. But, there have also been cases where a few English cricketers excelled in county cricket but failed to replicate their performances in Test cricket.

Here, we look at five such England cricketers who had a great First class record but failed to shine in Test cricket.

#1 Graeme Hick

If you are an England fan and if you happen to have a time machine you would probably want to turn back the years and give this big right-handed batsman another chance to prove his talent in Test cricket. Such was his talent, but that talent didn’t completely transform into runs in international cricket.

One of the most prolific run scorers in England county cricket, Hick was pure bliss to watch when in full flow. The classy batsman played as many as 526 first class games and amassed 41,112 runs at an impressive average of 52. He scored the majority of his runs for Worcestershire.

Format            Matches            Runs           Average          100s          Highest
First class           526                   41112             53.23             136            405*
Test cricket          65                  3383               31.32              6               178
But, Hick failed to perform consistently at the international level. He played 65 games and scored 3383 runs, and there was a lot of promise shown, but not enough performances to fetch him a permanent place in the team.

He made sporadic appearances in the national team in a career spanning over ten years. But as injuries took a toll on his body, his chance of a return was slim. He eventually retired in 2001 but continued playing county cricket till 2008. He became a coach post his retirement and was appointed as the Australian batting coach in September 2016.

#2 Mark Ramprakash
A batsman of rare talent, good technique combined with attacking stroke play, Mark Ramprakash is another agonising story of unfulfilled potential. Interestingly, Graeme Hick and Ramprakash made their debut in the same match, against West Indies in 1991 at Leeds.

Once hailed as the best young batsman in England by pundits, Ramprakash failed to live up to the huge expectations.

Format                      Matches                 Runs                    Average                   100s               Highest
First class                  461                        35659                         53.14                   114                       301*
Test                             52                           2350                          23.32                   2                           154
Nicknamed ‘Bloodaxe’ because of his temper, Ramprakash was one of those special players whom everybody wanted to see succeed. But he struggled to make significant contributions.

There were enough opportunities given, but as he couldn’t deliver his best, the selectors lost faith in him, and he eventually retired from Test cricket in 2002.

#3 Nick Knight
Nick Knight is a story well told in two contrasting characters. When in coloured clothing, he was an attacking opener who exploited field restrictions by smacking the ball over mid-on. And when in whites, he was a batsman fallible outside off stump, often edging full-length deliveries to the slips.

With impressive performances in county cricket, Knight was called into the national squad in 1995. But, the tall left-hander could only score one century in 17 Test matches. The main reason he failed in Test cricket was because of his poor technique and indecisive footwork against fast bowlers.

Format              Matches                             Run                       Average                100s                    Highest
First class           240                                   16172                      44.18                       40                     113
Test                     17                                      719                          23.96                        1                         303*
As Michael Atherton and Mark Butcher cemented their place in the England side with fine performances, there was not going to be many opportunities for Knight and he retired in 2006. Soon after his retirement, he joined Sky Sports as a commentator and a pundit.

#4 Chris Lewis
An aggressive lower-middle order batsman, a capable fast bowler and an athletic fielder, Chris Lewis had everything it took to be a fine all-rounder, but ended his playing days as an unfulfilled talent.

Despite being given ample opportunities the tall pacer couldn’t deliver to his full potential and was always seen as a supreme talent wasted.

Format                      Matches                   Wickets                      Average                   5  wickets
First class                  189                           543                              29.88                      20
Test                            32                              93                               37.52                         3

Lewis made his debut in 1990 against New Zealand, and after 32 intermittent Test appearances he scored 1105 and picked up 93 wickets. Despite having acceptable numbers for an all-rounder, his peers never supported him as they thought he lacked the discipline to succeed at the international level.

The highlight of his career was his hundred in Chennai that came against a quality Indian bowling attack. Albeit coming in a losing cause, his innings of 117 showed that he was a very capable batsman.

But, unfortunately, he couldn’t repeat the same performance again. Gradually he drifted out of the game as an unfulfilled talent.

#5 John Emburey

In an era which saw the greatest fast bowlers of all time, spin bowlers never really entered the limelight. But, John Emburey, easily one of the most underrated and underutilised bowlers, was a special talent.

Emburey was mostly used defensively, but on his day he would leave the batsmen groping outside off-stump. The tall tweaker had a classical loopy action and generated a huge amount of bounce and away drift. And had a lethal arm ball outswinger that troubled even the best of the batsmen.

The off-spinner made his debut in 1978 against New Zealand at Lord’s. He played 513 first-class games and bagged 1608 wickets but couldn’t replicate his performances in Test cricket. His average in Test cricket was 39, whereas he had a much better average of 26 in first-class cricket.

Format                Matches              Wickets                 Average                        5s                   Best figures
First class             513                      1608                     26.09                               72                  8-40
Test                       64                        147                         38.40                              6                   7-78

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