One unforgettable Ashes innings was the batting beacon amongst the tributes to the late Graham Dilley this week – but Mike Brearley, the England captain when he produced the boisterous 56 in question, reckons his natural talent would have pushed him closer to all-rounder status in the modern game.
Although the decision to ‘give it some humpty’ at Headingley in 1981 will maintain Dilley in Ashes, and indeed cricket, folklore, those Australian-deflating strokes contributed to one of only two Test half-centuries for the former Kent and Worcestershire paceman.
Yet Brearley, revered for his astute observations, said: “Of course, his main suit was his bowling but he was a much better batsman than people gave him credit for. He reminds me slightly of Stuart Broad. Perhaps not as good a batsman as Stuart, being a hitter rather than a player, but he always had a good swing with the bat. If he had had the same coaching and encouragement as lower-order players do now then I think he would have grown into something more.”
Brearley admired lots of qualities in Dilley but suggested affability held him back. “The one thing about him as a cricketer was that he was not that confident,” he recalled. “From that lovely long delivery stride and drag, he produced classic fast-medium away swing bowling. He was hostile and fast. He wasn’t overtly aggressive, and perhaps he would have been even better if he had had a bit more of that. But that was just his character. He was a very likeable man, and naturally quiet.”
If Broad fails to recover from his current shoulder injury before October 29, Graeme Swann will continue his temporary leadership of the England Twenty20 team for the one-off match in India, a position for which team director Andy Flower reckons he was the obvious choice.
However, Flower did offer up something of a surprise as Swann’s closest rival for the captaincy: Yorkshire all-rounder Tim Bresnan.
“It was a fairly simple choice. A guy like Bresnan could have captained. I have got a lot of respect for Bresnan. He is solid as a rock, doesn’t get flustered and he has proved he is very skilful in all three forms of the game,” Flower said. “But Swann is the most experienced. He has got a good cricket brain and in the absence of the other guys he was the best.”
Monty Panesar makes his debut for the ‘Randy Petes’ this weekend. Or Sydney grade club Randwick Petersham, to give them their full name.
Panesar, 29, hopes to end a two-and-a-half year England exile during the 2012 Test tours of the United Arab Emirates (to face Pakistan) and Sri Lanka, and has committed to keeping up the rhythm he developed in taking 69 County Championship wickets for Sussex last summer with a couple of months down under.
He will kick off his Aussie club cricket stint by lining up alongside another international with a point to prove, Australia’s Usman Khawaja, against Fairfield-Liverpool.
Panesar’s fellow left-arm spinner, Lancashire’s Simon Kerrigan, an outside bet to feature in the full England tour squads in the New Year, is another who has embraced the club game wholeheartedly.
Last month, just two days after claiming the County Championship title at Taunton, the 22-year-old was one of around 50 helpers who mopped up to ensure play was possible ahead of Ormskirk’s nine-wicket win over Rainford that sealed the Liverpool & District Championship.
Kerrigan, whose nine-wicket haul against Hampshire kept Lancashire in the title race heading into the final round, claimed three scalps against Rainford and finished runner-up in the Kingfisher Beer-sponsored most valuable bowler award for the country’s top club cricketers. Sri Lankan spinner Dinuka Hettiarachchi won it, his wickets helping St Annes to the Northern League crown.