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Following On: From Chris Gayle To Chris Gayle

A truly international journey this week. Starting with a West Indian master-blaster and the first player of Chinese extraction to appear at the top level, Richard H Thomas makes his homeward leg in the company of three great English characters.

Chris Gayle
On Sunday May 20, there were two cricket matches live on British TV. Chris Gayle was playing in one, for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Deccan Chargers. I was probably not alone in wishing that he was playing in the other one, for West Indies against England at Lord’s. In India he is ultimate box office, the adoration cranking up a notch every time he plants the ball in the top tier. He did that a mere 59 times in this year’s IPL, by the way. Gayle is apparently ambivalent towards Test cricket; nevertheless talks are ongoing with the WICB to bring him back into the five-day fold. It’s rarely plain sailing when Gayle is involved though. Despite bright signs from Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, the Windies need Gayle in the same way any team would a man who has two triple Test tons under his belt. His T20I debut was the 102nd anniversary of the birth of…

Ellis Achong
Ellis “Puss” Achong had a brief and relatively moderate first-class career – less than 120 wickets and 600 runs in all – but he played six times for the West Indies between 1930 and 1935. Wisden described him as “the first cricketer of Chinese extraction to play Test cricket”; indeed like Bernard Bosanquet and the ‘bosie’ years before, Achong contributed to the naming of a peculiar delivery. Bowling some left-arm back of the hand stuff at Old Trafford in 1933, he bamboozled Walter Robins and had him stumped for 55. Ruefully walking back to the hutch, Robins reflected “…fancy being out to a bloody Chinaman.” It stuck, even though few apart from Brad Hogg have managed to master it of late. The second of Achong’s eight Test wickets was…

Percy Hendren
“For Middlesex,” wrote Denzil Batchelor, “Hendren was the darling number one turn, the top-liner of the show. In his 31 years in cricket he scored over 57,000 runs, with more centuries (170) than any man but Jack Hobbs, and batting average of over 50”. But that’s only the half of it. As Ian Pebbles asserted, Hendren had a gift for “apt and spontaneous buffoonery”, with the “restraint of the accomplished clown”. Former Somerset seamer Raymond Robertson-Glasgow confirms Hendren’s comic timing, suggesting “he knew when and at whom to throw the pie”. Neville Cardus deliciously notes that Hendren made nought in both his Middlesex debut and his very last match, something that provided him as much pleasure as all of his centuries. He died on the 51st birthday of…

Reg Perks
Perks exemplified the stellar old timer who terrorised county batsmen but got next to no opportunities to prove himself at Test level. He played only two Tests and in the second, against the West Indies in 1939, John Arlott suggested “he never bowled better” despite “a deadly easy Oval wicket”. Generating “quite remarkable pace” he took 5-156 and swore blind that 11 catches were dropped off him – a claim described by Arlott as “only the slightest exaggeration”. Unsurprisingly, after 2,233 wickets and 100 or more scalps in 16 consecutive seasons Perks was hugely respected; according to Wisden upon learning of his final illness, his old Worcestershire captain Lord Cobham drove 25 miles through the snow to visit him. Perks’ other England match was the famous “timeless Test” in March 1939. Another member of the England team on that occasion was…

Paul Gibb
Bookish, balding and bespectacled, after studying at Cambridge University and war service in the RAF, Gibb was perhaps unlucky that his career coincided with that of Godfrey Evans, who was considered superior behind the sticks. Gibb did the business with the bat mind you – he made two tons in eight Tests and finished with an impressive average of 44.69. During his spell at Essex his idiosyncrasies became famous, and teammate Doug Insole observed that he once turned down a fifth portion of ice cream at lunch. Rather charmingly, days after his retirement, the county received an application for life membership, and after a time as an umpire he became a bus driver. David Frith noted that shortly before his death in 1977, Gibb attended the Australia-England centenary Test in Melbourne wearing a toupee and nobody recognised him; indeed when he died suddenly before a shift at the bus depot, it transpired that none of his colleagues had any idea of his cricketing exploits. They had no clue, for example, about the 280 he put on with Bill Edrich at Durban in 1938/39 – a record by any pair against South Africa until the second-wicket stand of 331 made at Antigua in 2005 by Ramnaresh Sarwan and… Chris Gayle!

Click here to read Following On: From Jonny Bairstow To Jonny Bairstow

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