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Balanced Sports and World Cricket Watch are inviting cricket writers from around the globe to wax lyrical on who they consider their “favourite cricketer”. Today is the turn of James Morgan, co-editor of The Full Toss, who chooses an England seamer who played a part in two triumphant Ashes series. James tweets @thefulltoss.
As a lifelong Worcestershire fan, Graham Dilley is a cricketer who has always been close to my heart. He joined Worcs in 1987, at the same time as Ian Botham, in what was my first season as a junior member at New Road. It was a special time for the county – and a special time in my childhood.
Some of my fondest memories involve spending summer days under the chestnut trees at the county ground, watching that great Worcs side which won back to back championship titles in 1987 and 1988. Dilley often used to field in front of us at long leg. I know I was just ten years old at the time, but he seemed taller than a giraffe.
Dilley wasn’t quite a great fast bowler – like so many of England’s best seamers, injury put paid to that – but he was an extremely useful one. He was pretty quick, moved the ball away from the right-handers, and played a part in two of England’s greatest Ashes triumphs. I’m referring, of course, to his defiant half century alongside Botham at Headingley in 1981, and his starring role in Mike Gatting’s series success down under in 1986-87.
From a personal point of view, however, it was Dilley’s success at Worcs that I will remember the most. He was the spearhead of what was possibly the best county bowling attack of the modern era: Dilley was joined by Neil Radford, Ian Botham, Phil Newport and Richard Illingworth. All of them represented England at one point or another, albeit not at the same time. Perhaps only the Lancashire side of the early nineties could match them.
Dilley, of course, was the best of the lot (Botham had lost a bit of pace by 1987). He took an almighty run up that made Allan Donald’s approach look like an off-spinner’s, reared his left leg horizontal in his delivery stride, pounded his leading boot into the turf, and followed through like a wind powered turbine. It was a great sight to behold. When the ball was taken behind the stumps by Steve Rhodes, usually standing nearer to the sight-screen than the stumps, the ball made an almighty thud.
Unlike some of county cricket’s other big names, Dilley always seemed happy to sign autographs at the end of the day. He was a gentle giant – and he possessed one of the best 80s blonde mullets outside of A-Ha. When I heard about Dilley’s sudden death in October 2011, it was a bolt from the blue.
Sports fans in Worcester were particularly upset at Dilley’s premature passing because his son, Chris Pennell, is captain of Worcester Warriors, the city’s premiership rugby team. Somehow, somewhere – probably at that great fast bowlers’ union in the sky – you sense that Graham is still following the Warriors’ progress, and cheering his boy on.
Previous Favourite Cricketers
Brian Lara by David Siddall
Allan Border by Ben Roberts
Douglas Jardine by David Green
Curtly Ambrose by Matthew Wood
Sachin Tendulkar by Subash Jayaraman
Ian Botham by Jonathan Kilroy
Shane Warne by Murray Middleton
Rahul Dravid by Sujith Krishnan
Wasim Akram by Blaise Murphet
Glenn McGrath by Gary Naylor
Ed Giddins by Nick Harrison
Adam Gilchrist by Will Atkins
Angus Fraser by James Marsh
Paul Allott by Jonathan Howcroft
Tim Bresnan by Yorkshire Len
Sourav Ganguly by Christopher David
David Boon by Jimi Stephens
Herschelle Gibbs by Justin Lawrence
Bob Woolmer by Nigel Henderson
Darren Lehmann by Daniel Gray
Kumar Sangakkara by Nishant Joshi
Justin Langer by Sarah C Robinson
Andy Bichel by Nicko Hancock
Chris Tavare by Gideon Haigh
Gavin Larsen by Ken Miller
Ray Bright by Dan Lonergan
Chris Pringle by Michael Wagener
Anil Kumble by Rishabh Bablani
Shoaib Akhtar by Assad Hasanain
Stuart MacGill by Kristian Gough
Michael Vaughan by Max Benson
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