Brian Close vs the world

30 Sep

A cult cricketer for sure …

The DB Close XI

Much has and will continue to be written about the wonderfully colourful career of Brian Close. One aspect often overlooked is the real twilight of his first class career. Not his return to test cricket in 1976 but his own first class side, who between 1982 and 1986 took on a variety of challengers at the Scarborough festival. Just as Schools went back and the evenings got cooler, Close lead out an XI of players for his own pre-autumnal bash. At times these games were like an its a knockout of cricket at other times they must have felt like a final heave before being aloud home. For Close they were a final chance to show off on the first class stage.

All the matches were against visiting international touring sides with the exception of 1985 when a World XI turned up. However lets start in 1982. The first match against Pakistan was such a resounding victory that they had to play a 40 over match on the 3rd day. Franklyn Stephenson ripped through the Tourists with 5 for 64 in a total of 177, and then Close’s side made 357 for 8 declared. Close batting at 7 and aged 51 made 26 not out. It was a strong side with Desmond Haynes and Martin Crowe opening. Crowe made 104 and Mike Gatting 48. Pakistan, perhaps with one eye on the time of the plane home were then all out for 134. Norman Gifford, the only cricketer to ever consistently look older than Close, took 4 for 24.

The game must have had some merits as in 1983 they took on New Zealand. This time the side included some new faces in Mike Whitney, Bob Taylor and Jonathan Agnew. Roger Harper also played. A mixture of local league professionals and county players seemed to be the consistent selection pool. Collis King, Mushtaq and Stephenson all returned. New Zealand made 292 all out with the last wicket falling to Close , whose 1.4 overs saw him take 1 wicket for 5 runs. Perhaps he should have brought himself on earlier! He then top scored in the reply with 51 ( again from number 7) out of a total of only 155. New Zealand made another steady score of 247 for 6 and then bowled out the Close XI for 265, this time the skipper made just 1.

1984 was a rain interrupted match against Sri Lanka. Desmond Haynes opened with Graeme Fowler and they made 111 and 61 respectively. Martin Moxon, Wasim Raja and Arnold Sidebottom all made the side and Close managed 15 , again not out as the side declared at 300 for 5. Sri Lanka managed 216 for 4 before the match ended. The highlight( other than Close’s 1.1 overs ) being Martin Moxons 3 for 26. He actually took 3 for 5 in 9 balls according to Wisden. Who knew ?

1985 saw a change. Whether the Australians were frightened or couldn’t be bothered will never be known but this time the mighty DB Close XI took on nothing less than The World. Or rather World XI. Oddly many past representatives of the DB Close XI made the World side. It would be nice to think that players who weren’t good enough for the Close XI had to be content to represent the World. On closer inspection though it seems that the Close XI were players eligible for England the World were not. Notable in the World XI was Matrin Crowe whose century had been a highlight of the 1982 match. The World also included Franklyn Stephenson, Mushtaq Mohammed and Roger Harper from previous Close XI’s. The Close XI this time included Moxon and Gatting, Edmonds and Emburey and Norman Cowans. One assumes Middlesex didnt have a game that day. The Close XI made 226 for 5 declared, with 20 again not out from the Captain. The World XI were bowled out by Edmonds and Emburey, 4 wickets apiece at the height of their collective powers, for just 162. Close made 22 not out in the 137 for 8 reply before leading the bowling charge with 6 overs and 2 for 33 as the World collapsed for 171. Close vs the World and the World lost.

We always assumed it would.

At the age of 55 he came back for one more game, this time against New Zealand. Close brought Geoff Boycott into his side. The side made 257, Close managed 22 and was dismissed for the first time since 1983. New Zealand made an enormous 519, with Ken Rutherford managing a triple Century. Close Bowled 10 overs taking a bit of a pasting and managed 1 for 71, he did dismiss Rutherford though, caught behind by Taylor. The second innings was fairly academic, Close got 4 in a total of 358 for 5 the match was drawn and his career over.

1987 saw the MCC play Yorkshire. The DB Close XI was consigned to history. During this period Close had averaged 40.75 with the bat ( due in no small part to 4 not out innings but then those are the rules of averages !) and his 4 wickets came at 27.25 runs each. Not bad for someone in their 50’s.

In Close’s own autobiography he writes “ never at any time has Brian Close given less than one hundred per cent for the team for which Brian Close was playing”. I suspect it was true even in these late first class matches.


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