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The Ten

The Ten: English cult heroes of the Eighties and Nineties

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

From Derek Pringle to Devon Malcolm, we list 10 English cult heroes from the Eighties and Nineties.

First published in 2008

10. Paul Smith – Warwickshire (1982-1996)

There were few cricketers more influential in their time than Warwickshire all-rounder, Paul Smith. Able to bowl faster, almost, than any man alive and an expressive strokemaker nearly posting God’s statistics, ‘Moonman’ somehow found himself a multiple trophy winner during the Bears’ glory years under Dermot Reeve, not that he remembers much of it. Today, Smith works for The Prince’s Trust as a mentor, passing on the lessons from his own journey skirting the lay-bys in life’s fast lane.

9. Chris Tavaré – Kent, Somerset and England (1974-1993)

It is something of an achievement to be regarded as the world’s most boring batsman in an era when scoring at two and a half runs per over was considered tanking it. Tavaré rarely ‘swung away’ as the much famed terrace chant implored.

Chris Tavaré played 31 Tests and 29 ODIs for England

Although latterly earning a reputation as a bit of a dasher, Tavaré failed to rid himself of the blockers tag. At the height of his infamy, a then-student, Angus Loughran (later BBC horse racing pundit and ‘Statto’), was moved to run onto the field at the Oval brandishing a chair for The Tav to sit on whilst batting.

8. Ian Austin – Lancashire (1987-2000)

Fleshier than most, but far from unathletic, Ian ‘Oscar’ Austin may have possessed the physique of a seal but his consistency for his native Lancashire underpinned the team’s one-day success during his time at the club. Lancs are still to replace Oscar’s understated yet compelling all-round contribution. And the Old Trafford faithful loved him.

7. Derek Pringle – Essex and England (1978-1993)

Big Del Pringle always looked like a student, and duly played with the air of a man marking time, until getting a proper job became the last realistic option. After stumbling out of Cambridge in ’82 and straight into an Ashes tour, he deferred the inevitable for 16 highly successful seasons with Essex, playing in a World Cup final along the way. Pringle, now cricket correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, holds the dubious honour of being the first England cricketer (and first Telegraph journo?), to sport an earring.

6. David Ward – Surrey (1985-1996)

Ferocious hitting and fearsome gnashes characterised David Ward, straddling Surrey’s under-performing Eighties and Nineties sides like some big friendly monster. Surrey to his core, Ward came late to first-class cricket. A carpenter until the age of 24, Ward then set about doing anything and everything in the Brown Hatters’ cause to turn around a club unable to find the magic winning formula despite a talented and well-balanced staff. A massive crowd favourite, Ward was always the right man to patrol the boundary during a festival game on an outground. He now coaches with great success at Whitgift School, where in 2002, due to injury and unavailability, he was plucked from retirement to play one final time for his beloved county at the age of 41, smashing 78 from 52 balls against Leicestershire.

5. Phil Edmonds – Middlesex and England (1971-1992)

Narcissistic, hugely opinionated and occasionally unpleasant, Edmonds was England’s most potent spinner during the 1980s. Tall, languid, graceful, and in possession of a classical left-arm spinner’s action, Edmonds played 51 Tests in an era when few gained so many caps. Edmonds played out the final years of his career with the help of a surgical corset; sporting a watch – hugely controversial at the time; and fielding far too close to the bat at short leg. He is married to writer and businesswoman, Frances Edmonds, and by all accounts is very big in the City these days.

4. Raymond East – Essex (1965-1984)

Another slow left-armer, Raymond East was a founder member of Essex’s hugely successful ‘crazy gang’ of the Eighties. A talented spin bowler whose nervousness fuelled his quest for comedy, particularly in moments of high tension. An absolute fruitcake and great company – in a manic, not far from certifiable kind of way.

Ray East was one of the stars of the invincible Essex side of the Eighties

3. Brian Hardie – Essex (1970-1990)

Anyone saddled with the nickname ‘Lager’ has to be the right sort of bloke, don’t they? Scottish and fidgety, Hardie’s nick, nurdle and nudge style saw him emerge as a reliable middle-order player before moving up to open the batting in limited-over cricket, complementing perfectly his opening partner, Graham Gooch.

Hailing from Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, it was Hardie’s sense of humour that made him such a favourite on the circuit. He famously brought a tray of champagne glasses onto the field during a drinks interval after hearing on the radio that Sylvester Clarke, Surrey’s fearsome Barbadian fast bowler of the time, had retired from first-class cricket.

2. Mark Nicholas – Hampshire (1978-1995)

No man faced more bouncers in a single career.

1. Devon Malcolm – Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and England (1984-2003)

He occasionally bowled badly, but never slowly. Blind as a bat, Malcolm looked as if he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo when at the crease and in the field; possessing one of the most powerful arms in sport was a tool somewhat offset by the fact that he had no idea where he was aiming it. There was no more popular figure on the boundary’s edge than big Dev. A genial man off the field, many thought Malcolm was harshly treated during his 40-Test England career. One of the game’s genuine strike bowlers.

First published in 2008

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