While he might now be more well known as the face of Sky Sports Cricket’s match coverage, at the turn of the century Ian Ward was a cricketer of note, playing a key part in Surrey’s County Championship dominance and winning five England Test caps in 2001.
The story of his winding path to that success is a fascinating one, albeit one that has been told before. After having his Surrey contract axed in 1992, Ward worked at a petrol station and as an airplane cleaner at Heathrow Airport before earning a new deal at his boyhood club in 1997.
As it turns out, Ward came close to turning down a second chance at Surrey when he received a phone call from second team coach Tony Piggott asking him to play a trial match. “I went to say no,” Ward told The Independent. “But more in the ‘no – f*** you, Surrey’ type, which I appreciate wasn’t very mature.”
It was only hearing in the background the voice of the man who had cut him loose back in 1992 that spurred him on to take the opportunity and prove people wrong.
“While I was on the phone to Tony, I heard someone in the background,” he said. “It was Grahame Clinton – the man who had sacked me at Surrey. Clinton asked who Piggott was he on the phone to. ‘Ian Ward’. And Clinton goes, ‘well I suppose he will do’. So I said I’d be there, rocked up and scored a hundred!”
Ward went onto win three County Championship titles with Surrey, playing a starring role in their 2002 triumph. He scored 1,708 runs at an average of 65.69 in that campaign, with seven hundreds, as the South London club’s dominance made them one of the most feared county sides there’s ever been.