Ali Brown, the most destructive county batsman of the 1990s and 2000s, looked back on a record-breaking career with Surrey, Notts and all too briefly, England.
Published in 2012
The day it began
125* | Middlesex YCs v Surrey YCs, Ealing, 1987
As a 17-year-old, I was just seen as someone who could hit a long ball. In a game against Middlesex we were reduced to 42-6 chasing 230. I made 125* as we won by three wickets. Up until then a career in the Met Police beckoned but this innings changed everything. Within weeks I was informed that were I not at school there was a good chance that I’d be offered a one-year contract. I went to work in Fleet Street and within two weeks was offered that one-year contract. I gave myself three years to succeed or get a proper job…
The first Surrey ton
113 | Glams v Surrey, Sunday League, July 5, 1992, Llanelli
Growing up, my idols were Ian Botham and Viv Richards, and I was fortunate to play against both of them. This was my first limited-overs ton, and Viv was playing for Glamorgan. He was fielding on the boundary, and as I had youthful legs, I was pressurising him to get an extra run. He kept sending me back but eventually I got one! I scored 113 and after the game he came into our dressing room. There was complete silence, followed by a “Well played man.” Finally, I’d impressed one half of the men that had sculpted the way I wanted to play. Respect.
175 | Durham v Surrey, July 31 – August 3 1992, Durham Uni Ground
I came into the game having scored my maiden first-class hundred the week before against Notts. I’d been batting at six, but Darren Bicknell broke his thumb, so I was sent into open and made 111 – getting off the mark with a six. We then went up to Durham and on a crazy first day where 14 wickets had fallen by tea, I managed to get to 125 not out by the close. I ended up with 175, but during the game there was an exchange with Ian Botham. After hooking him for four, he shouted, “That’s just a bloody slog!” To which I replied that I was just batting like my idol! Those hundreds really kick-started my career.
37 | England v India, First ODI, May 23 1996, The Oval
It had been raining for three days before my debut, and the wicket at The Oval was pretty sporting. I opened with Mike Atherton, and I remember thinking that I had to score quicker than Athers or I’d get jettisoned straight away! I made 37 in tough conditions and got slated in The Times for my approach. Clearly that armchair critic thought the wicket was flat and the fact that India were saved by the weather at 50-5 was something he failed to put into his report! I was disappointed that having survived the first 10 overs I got out for being too aggressive to a bowler described by Bumble as ‘not very good’ and that the journalist failed to write on my 118 in the third ODI at Old Trafford. Given my time again I wouldn’t have played any differently.
The first double
203 | Surrey v Hampshire, AXA Life League, July 20 1997, Guildford
I always believed I could score double hundreds in a one-day match having achieved the feat in the Second XI trophy earlier on in my career. I felt in great form and felt confident the week before in the B&H final that I would turn that form into big runs. I lasted four balls in that final before finding Mathew Fleming’s right hand but arrived at Guildford in good form to find a good, hard wicket and a sunny day. Thankfully John Stephenson put us in and the rest is history. I was unaware of the actual record but in hitting a six to go to 180. the crowd stood after the announcement that I’d passed Graham Gooch’s record. As with both of my double hundreds the ball swung early for the first few overs, which made me more watchful and bought me some time to get used to the wicket. After hitting my first six I just went with the flow, and that flow lasted 40 overs! As Guildford is a small ground the one thing I’ll always remember is the step ladders on the pavement and the faces peering in from outside; not to mention the look in my fellow players eyes when they shook my hand one by one at tea. Special.
124 | Surrey v Glamorgan, August 4-5 1999, The Oval
This was one of the quickest wickets I’ve ever played on. Jacques Kallis made Simon Jones appear medium pace and trust me he wasn’t! I remember nicking Jones to Kallis at second slip which nearly took his head off as he dropped it! It was the only time I’ve ever had a long stop whilst batting. Jon Batty retired hurt after getting hit in the face by a bouncer, which also meant I had my one and only experience of keeping in a first-class game. I took two catches and a stumping in a session which means I have a pretty impressive strike-rate as a first-class keeper!
The big one
268 | Surrey v Glamorgan, C&G Trophy Fourth Round, June 19 2002, The Oval
I’d made a double hundred for Surrey seconds in a 55-over game in about 1990, so I always knew that I could make a really big score in a one-day game, and then came the 203 against Hampshire. But this was the big one. It was just one of those days when everything hit the middle, and when the ball was hit it stayed hit. It was a day when, if the ball was full it hit the middle of my drive, and when it was short it landed in the crowd. Once I’d passed 100 and then 150, I only had 203 on my mind as a personal milestone, so passing 222 [for the highest ever limited-overs score] was not on my radar. Once you pass 150, the fear of failure has totally disappeared. It was a day that comes round once in a lifetime and I feel lucky that I was able to take the opportunity given to me. I ended up hitting 30 fours and 12 sixes before getting out just before the end on 268… The fact that Glamorgan only ended up nine short shows what you can achieve when you don’t see a downside. They’ve named the pavilion bar at The Oval ‘The 268 Bar’ after that innings. As a non drinker, I haven’t been in there for a while, although over the winter staff lunches have taken place there. I’m currently coaching the Surrey Second XI, and it feels good to be back.
🗣️ @Phil_Wisden: “Just remember, this is the bloke who made 203 and 268 in a one-day game, the first one in a 40-over game.”
Why Ali Brown is the great that England never really had.https://t.co/OeBocb3iI6
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 26, 2020
The final ton
134 | Nottinghamshire v Durham, May 7-10 2010, Trent Bridge
In my first year at Notts we came second in the Championship, but we were a long way behind Durham, who hammered us. In 2010, we started with three wins from three, and knew that if we could beat Durham we were more than just challengers. The scores were fairly level until I put on a big partnership with Chris Read before Paul Franks smashed it at the finish. I finished with 134, my last Championship hundred. We beat them by an innings, and won the Championship.
The end of the road
Nottinghamshire v Warwickshire, May 18-20 2011, Trent Bridge
I had a tough start to 2011 after a back injury but got picked for a match against Warwickshire. I remember batting in the game and not being able to move the way I wanted to. I always felt there was going to be a sign to tell me that it was time to call it a day and this was it. Mark Wagh, who had announced his own retirement not long before, was walking off with me, and I said: “You know what, that’s me done”. Funnily enough I played against Warwickshire’s second team a few weeks later with a similar attack and I hit a hundred! That’s cricket.
Published in 2012