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Rikki Clarke: Warwickshire's all-round man

April 28, 2017

There are some players who have been a county man and boy, who might never excite the England selectors much, but are nonetheless seen by those in the know as invaluable assets to their teams.

Yet there are others who may move from one county to the other, with the talent to make a major impact at county level, have a brief taste of international cricket, and then find new challenges later in their career to ensure they make the most of their time in the game. Rikki Clarke is definitely in the latter category, a player those watching their cricket at Edgbaston will always be happy to see.

Born in Essex, Clarke was raised and schooled in Surrey, making his debut for the county in 2002. At six foot and four inches, he was a challenging prospect with his fast medium bowling and his big hitting marked him out as an all-rounder of genuine talent. He was named the 2002 Cricket Writer's Club Young Player of the Year.

It was perhaps unfortunate for Clarke that his emergence came at a time when another big man, Andrew Flintoff, was finally starting to fulfil his immense talent at Test level. However, after a summer of heavy scoring against South Africa, Flintoff was to miss the first leg of England's marathon 2003-04 winter in Bangladesh with injury. Clarke had his chance against what was then the weakest side in Test cricket.

However, in subcontinental conditions it was far from easy. He made only 14 in England's stumbling first innings of 295 in the first Test in Dhaka and took just one wicket in the match. He did not bat in the second innings as the tourists eventually won by seven wickets.

In the second test in Chittagong, things got rather better as Clarke hit what was to be his only Test 50, making 55 as the visitors again battled to handle the conditions against a modest spin attack. However, Clarke was able to pick up two very cheap wickets for just seven runs as Bangladesh folded for 152 and then added 27 from just 16 balls as skipper Michael Vaughan was able to declare the second innings on 293-5. Clarke added another wicket and conceded just four runs in another brief bowling stint as the hosts folded once again, for 138.

That, however, was to be the summary of his Test career. The return of Andrew Flintoff meant that Clarke never did get to bat against Muralitharan in Sri Lanka, or bowl in the Caribbean against Brian Lara. Clarke did play 20 one-day internationals between 2004 and 2006, without making much impact.

But if his England career was brief, his county career continued to produce some fine moments. With a highest first class score of 214, Clarke was, and is, a fine talent and when he finally left Surrey for Derbyshire in 2008, it was no surprise he did so as captain of the East Midlands team.

In the event, the move did not work out and after a difficult year, Clarke moved across the Midlands to Edgbaston. Now 35, he still has much to give and while he may not have the caps, runs or wickets of some of his more decorated colleagues, Rikki Clarke remains one of the stars of the county game.  

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