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Following On: From Jonny Bairstow To Jonny Bairstow

This week Richard H Thomas spins a yarn about a Sixties dasher, a couple of Caribbean favourites, the current England stumper and his possible successor. 

Jonny Bairstow

As Geoffrey Boycott mentioned in commentary during the Lord’s Test against West Indies, Jonny Bairstow showed his worth as a young kid playing on the outfield. He perhaps too, sucked up the earthy wisdom in a Yorkshire dressing room filled by the ebullience of his late father. The only surprise that he has become the 13th son to follow a father into Test cricket for England is more that he rather jumped a few places in the queue; in the Guardian Mike Selvey pointed out the numerous candidates to become Paul Collingwood’s successor, including Ravi Bopara, James Taylor, Eoin Morgan and Samit Patel. Michael Vaughan however, suggests there are three critical attributes for Test batting – front foot defence, back foot defence and knowing a “good leave”. Writing in the Telegraph, Vaughan says: “Jonny has the lot”. Judging by a couple of spanked boundaries in a jolly little Test cameo, it appears that this is another Jonny with a boom boom. He shares a birthday with…

Bob Barber

The move to Warwickshire was a critical factor in the liberation of Bob Barber. Leaving Old Trafford in the early Sixties changed what Christopher Martin-Jenkins called a “careful, introverted” batsman into an “aggressive and richly entertaining” one. Such a transformation is exemplified by the opening stand with Geoffrey Boycott in Sydney in 1965/66.  They put on 234 for the first wicket, and as Wisden reports, “when Barber was second out at 303 he had batted four minutes under five hours and hit 19 fours in an innings of magnificent aggression”. As a mischievous, tongue-in-cheek observation, Barber’s innings of 185 was 101 more than that of his opening partner, despite only facing 21 more balls. CMJ sounds almost heartbroken in his reflection that the “intelligent and independent” Barber “sacrificed” cricket for a career in business, while “still in his prime”. He played 28 Test matches, the same number as…

Charlie Griffith

If Wes Hall was the smoothly crafted engine of the partnership, Charlie Griffith provided the thunder and guts. On one catastrophic occasion he also provided the blood; Indian skipper Nari Contractor was struck on the head by a short one from the burly Barbadian, and despite walking off, his condition quickly deteriorated and two emergency operations were necessary to save his life. Frank Worrell was the first of a number of players from both sides to give blood for essential transfusions. Despite a terrific tour to England in 1963 when he bagged 119 wickets, Griffith was frequently no-balled for throwing his quicker one, and in response to persistent and worldwide complaints he changed his action but in doing so nullified his most potent weapon. On his 39th birthday, another West Indian Test player was born…

Brendan Nash

It is inevitable that the colour of Brendan Nash’s skin will still be making headlines years after his cricket career ends. “The first white man to play for the West Indies for over three decades,” they said, never letting the truth stand in the way of an emotive headline. Nash is of mixed race and qualified originally for Jamaica via his father Paul, who swam for the island in the Mexico Olympics of 1968. After his doughty left-handed batting, outstanding fielding and left-arm seamers were deemed generally surplus to requirements by Australian cricket, for 21 Test matches he found a niche in a West Indian middle order overrun with swagger but short on steel. Despite a poor run of form seemingly ending his international career, his record was tidy enough and Kent snapped him up for 2012 – a “great signing” said Bumble in the Telegraph, and an early season ton against Yorkshire certainly seems to support his opinion. Nash has taken only two Test wickets, and the first was…

Matthew Prior

Vic Marks suggested that following the completion of his sixth Test hundred, at Lord’s in July 2011 versus India, Prior “replaced his bat very carefully back into its slot in the dressing room”. He probably was thinking more about not breaking any more windows, but perhaps justifiably, he could have considered that he is now the best wicketkeeper batsman on the planet. At that time, his opposite number M.S Dhoni had a batting average seven runs lower, and Marks suggested that Prior had surpassed him with the gauntlets too. Stats of course, can be like puppets on strings – they do what you want. It is worth noting though, that as a veteran of 50 Tests Prior has a batting average six better than Allan Lamb, seven better than Atherton, seven more than Gatting and nine more than Botham. As Steve James suggested in the Telegraph, he is now “a hugely important cog” and as the man in possession, for now he represents a significant barrier to the Test wicketkeeping aspirations of… Jonny Bairstow!

Click here to read last week’s Following On, beginning and ending with Adam Hollioake

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