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Ed Kemp

The Definitive: Allan Lamb

Ed Kemp by Ed Kemp

England’s middle-order maestro during the 80s, Legga speaks to Ed Kemp and lists the moments that made him.

A fateful training session | 1963

I was a better rugby player than a cricketer – I had to make a decision later on. Someone got me to play cricket when I was eight or nine. I was a wicketkeeper then. During a training session the master told me to come and bowl and I started getting wickets. The batting came into it later; I was an allrounder at school. Maybe if I’d have stayed a keeper and hadn’t gone to bowl then I wouldn’t have ended up a cricketer at all!

58 & 32 | Western Province v Eastern Province, Currie Cup, Cape Town, 1973

I made my debut and did well against Eastern Province. As a schoolboy in South Africa at that time you had to play tough cricket to get anywhere. That made me strong. When I came through Western Province we had some very tough, great players – Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter, Hylton Ackerman. They were all fantastic players; if you didn’t learn from them you were never going to.

35* | England v India, First ODI, Headingley, 1982

I got selected for England just on the basis of my performances for Northants: from 1979 onwards I was churning out nearly 2,000 runs every year. It was always going to be more difficult for me because of my background – I don’t think the media were 100 per cent behind me playing for England. I got 99 in my second one-dayer, then a hundred at The Oval in my third Test soon after. You’ve got to take your chances. I got my chance to play for England and I wasn’t going to let it slip.

46 & 56 | Australia v England, First Test, Perth, 1982

I hadn’t really felt that comfortable in the side – I wasn’t sure if I’d been accepted – and when we toured Australia I had dinner with Ian Botham, Bob Willis and David Gower and said: “How do you guys feel about me playing? I’ve never really got your opinion.” And they all said: “Listen, you’re one of us. Geez, we’re loving having you in the side.” And that was it. When your three senior players say that they’re backing you, it takes a bit of pressure off you.

100* | England v West Indies, Fourth Test, Old Trafford, 1984

I’d got exactly 100 in the Test before. West Indies had such a good side they just bloody bulldozed us. I grew up playing quick bowlers in South Africa, so it wasn’t anything new. Cricket, like anything you do, is about self-belief and inner strength. If you believe that you can do something, you’ll do it. I was lucky; there are so many people I know that don’t have it.

40 & 9 | Australia v England, First Test, Brisbane, 1986

We started off the tour so badly. We had a meeting the night before the first Test and I remember Both [Botham] saying: “Hey, the Test match is starting, we’ve got to start playing now.” And everyone looked at each other and said: “Bloody hell.” I think everyone was motivated. We had lulled the Australians into a false sense of security; we’d played so badly against Western Australia that they put some younger players in, and we ended up winning that Test match. We had a very good squad of players then – an experienced nucleus who knew exactly what they were doing. Beating Australia in their own country is a big thing.

77* | Australia v England, Fourth World Series Cup ODI, Sydney, 1987

It was a day/night game. We needed 32 off the last three overs, then 17 off the last. I said to Phil DeFreitas, who was batting with me: “We can get these runs.” Before the last over I said: “Give me your bat, mine’s absolute nonsense.” That was all in my head, there was nothing wrong with my bat, it was just that I hadn’t hit a four. I hit Bruce Reid for 18 – two, four, six, two, four – to win with a ball to spare. I kept the bat, too! I just felt I didn’t know how I could walk into the dressing room after batting all those overs and looking a bloody shambles. It was do-or-die, I had to get those runs.

132 | West Indies v England, First Test, Jamaica, 1990

We won our first Test match over West Indies after 30 attempts – it was 36 years since we had beaten them at Sabina Park – so that was real, great satisfaction. I got a hundred and we won the Test match. We had a lot of young players in that side, and as senior players Gooch and myself told the youngsters: “We can beat the West Indies. Go in with the self-belief that you can beat the West Indies.” Years of defeats had been ingrained in players, but we got it in their heads that they could be beaten.

119 | West Indies v England, Fourth Test, Barbados, 1990

My debut as captain. I enjoyed the captaincy, but unfortunately I only did a couple of games. It didn’t affect my batting, I was just motivated to beat the West Indies and knew if I scored runs – and everyone else did – we’d have a good chance of winning. After a frustrating match at Trinidad that we should have won, we just had to win at Barbados and we would have clinched the series. I thought we had done enough, but then a couple of bad decisions went against us and West Indies went on to win.

115 | Northamptonshire v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Northampton, 1995

Notts got 527 and everyone thought it was going to be a draw, and then we got 781 very quickly. We declared on the last day and then bowled them out. Anil Kumble got the wickets; he ended up getting 100 wickets for us that season. Games like that are unbelievable. There was some exceptional cricket played that season. When I finished with England in 1992, I really wanted to concentrate on trying to win the County Championship as captain. We came very, very close that year, my last season. It was a real disappointment we never won it.

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