10) David Lloyd
With Accrington CC in financial crisis at the end of 2007, an old club favourite returned to do his bit. Bumble described his comeback aged 61 as a “crackpot idea”. His first game for 19 years saw him make 15 before being caught at square-leg sweeping as Accrington fell to a 12-run defeat. But though appearances were sporadic due to his commentary commitments, Lloyd helped to draw the crowds in, and in his last ever game, at the end of 2009, Bumble – batting as low as No. 9 – scored the winning runs as Accrington, who also had his son Graham playing, clinched their second consecutive title.
9) David Ward
Some teachers enjoy nothing more than showing off in front of their pupils, and that’s exactly what David “I’ll be Bobby Charlton” Ward did when he played for Surrey at Whitgift School. The retired Surrey batsman hadn’t played county cricket for six years, but, with Surrey’s first team in Yorkshire for a semi-final delayed by rain, they refused to send their players down south for a 40-over game against Northants, with the semi rescheduled for Sunday. So last minute calls were sent out to reserves and pretty much anyone with Surrey connections. For a thrilling hour Ward went berserk, scoring 78 from 52 balls. That’s how to impress your pupils.
8) Colin Cowdrey
If someone like Colin Cowdrey turned up for England duty today, dieticians, physios and fitness coaches would probably combust. As reassuringly broad in the beam as WG himself, he was a sight for sore eyes when, with over 100 centuries under his not insignificant belt, he was recalled as an emergency replacement at 41 to confront Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson’s carnage for his sixth Ashes tour. The extra upholstery came in handy on the hard fast wickets, and though only averagely successful, he charmed the main Aussie protagonists with some genteel English decency.
7) Sourav Ganguly
Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly are two proud men not accustomed to backing down. After Chappell was appointed India coach in 2005 it soon became apparent that the two did not get along. Soon after the captain had claimed that individuals in the team were working to undermine him, matters reached a head with the leaking of an email from Chappell to the BCCI, in which he deemed Ganguly to be unfit to lead India. Chappell got his way, and Ganguly was replaced as skipper by Rahul Dravid and Chappell wasted little time in dropping Ganguly, seemingly for good. But Chappell’s replacement batsmen struggled, and with the force of public opinion behind him, the Prince of Kolkata returned a year later, top-scoring in India’s first ever win in South Africa and remaining in the side as an unlikely foot soldier – long after Chappell’s sacking – until retiring victorious against Australia in 2008.
6) John Traicos
Like Barry Richards, Mike Proctor, Eddie Barlow and others in a golden generation, John Traicos had an agonisingly short taste of Test cricket before South Africa’s exile in 1970. But Traicos was to dine at the game’s top table once more. A full 22 years and a cricketing lifetime after his first Test appearances, the Egyptian-born spinner made his Zimbabwe debut as a 45-year-old against India at Harare, snaffling five worthy scalps including Tendulkar and Azharuddin in 50 parsimonious overs.
5) Dirk Nannes
The ‘saxophone-playing World Cup-skier’ turned left-arm speedster had an innocuous start to his latest career; aged 29, in his second ever first-class game for Victoria his brisk seamers went for 150 as Queensland plundered 900. But this was only the beginning – this nomadic cricketer spearheaded the Middlesex attack as they took domestic T20 honours in 2008 then found the future to be orange when he helped Netherlands to their momentous win over England at Lord’s in 2009. But he was an Aussie by birth and proved irresistible to home selectors. He became leading wicket-taker at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in 2011 – some achievement for a quickie in his 35th year – and the fairytale continued thereafter as he cashed in at the IPL and, best of all, as a respected columnist for AOC.
4) Raymond Illingworth
Illingworth was a slow burner who single-mindedly developed enough team sprit to rescue the Ashes after a sparky tour to Australia in 1970/71. Stronger willed than many of those he encountered in authority, his second career at Leicestershire realised more silverware, enhancing his reputation as a master tactician. That would have been enough for most but before a somewhat troubled reign as manager/coach/tyrant of the Test team in the mid-Nineties he ran the Boycott gauntlet to return as Yorkshire skipper aged 50 in 1982. Sunday League success followed, but age finally caught up. John Arlott’s comments are a neat summary: “It is doubtful if anyone else had delved so deeply or effectively into the tactics of various forms of the contemporary game,” he wrote.
3) Darren Lehmann
Not one for physical jerks and diet sheets, Lehmann was the perfect fit to become Yorkshire’s most successful overseas signing since they dropped the homegrown policy. Nobody would compare Boof with Bradman, but after a last match flop left the Don stranded with a Test average agonisingly short of 100, how he would have admired Lehmann’s stylish, opportune sign-offs. Most players fade with a whimper, but Lehmann left the scene in a blaze of glory and cigarette smoke: a county-record triple century in his farewell match for Yorkshire, a matchwinning 167 in his last first-class match for South Australia, and, in his last one-day innings for the state, a brutal 126* as the rock at the heart of the highest run-chase in Australia’s one-day history.
2) Jonathan Agnew
Already part of radio folklore as the evil genius behind the ‘leg over’ episode, Aggers hadn’t dubbined his boots for some time when injury-stricken Leicestershire coaxed his whites out of the attic for one last blast. Colleagues in the press box feared for the subsequent physiotherapy bill and bowling analysis but Aggers, still as lithe as a robber’s dog, earned his long soak in the bath after 12 stingy overs, conceding 31 without a single boundary and helping them secure a NatWest final berth. All this without a lugubrious Yorkshireman in the background chiding “Ah yes Jonathan, but what abaaat yer battin?”
1) Brian Close
Unselfish and blessed with what Ray Illingworth called “infectious enthusiasm”, the former Leeds United youth player made his Test debut at 18 and continued to cajole, confound, confront and command for the next 50 years. Playing with what former Yorkshire bowler Bill Bowes described as “optimism rather than sound reasoning”, he famously eschewed protection at short-leg even when turning out for Yorkshire seconds into his 70s, cursing the missed ricochet catches in the covers (off his head). Officialdom was never at ease with such steadfastness, and as captain of ‘The Awkward Squad’ (quite an achievement in the Yorkshire side of the Sixties), he left the Test and county captaincies with a flea in his ear, although his subsequent years at Somerset re-energised a side containing a young Botham. The Close legend was cemented in the torturous summer of 1976 when, at the age of 46 and after a nine-year Test hiatus, he was summoned by Tony Greig to counter the blistering Holding, Daniel and co. Statistically, he was only moderately successful, but as others capitulated in fear of their lives, he didn’t blink. He needed only a handful more to reach 35,000 career runs in his final first-class appearance at the Scarborough Festival when he walked after gloving one down the leg-side. He refused the offered reprieve. “It’s an honourable game and that’s the way I was brought up” he said, as uncomplaining as he was at Old Trafford when he told John Edrich the best way to play Holding was “with your chest”.