In September 2007, Robert Croft became the first homegrown Welsh cricketer to take 1,000 wickets and score 10,000 runs as he dismissed Niall O'Brien of Northamptonshire to claim his 1,000th wicket in first-class games.
Born in 1970, Croft made his Glamorgan debut in 1989 and soon won a regular place in the Welsh county's side as Rodney Ontong was forced into retirement due to injury. Croft's potential was soon recognised by the England selectors who chose the Welsh-speaking youngster for the England A tour to the West Indies in 1991/92. The following summer he won his county cap after taking 68 wickets during the season, including 8-66 (and match figures of 14-169) against Warwickshire at Swansea. He went on the England A tour to South Africa in 1993/94, and developed into a true all-rounder, as testified by a career best 143 against Somerset at Taunton in 1995 and a series of aggressive innings in limited overs games.
His crisp and well timed strokeplay, allied to his accurate offspin, drew the attention of the England selectors in 1996 and he was included in the England side for the final Test of the summer against Pakistan at The Oval. A steady performance led to a place on the 1996/97 tour to Zimbabwe and New Zealand, where the unflappable Croft turned in some fine performances in both the Tests and one day games. His accurate off-spin helped England to a series win over the Kiwi's and he held his place for the 1997 Ashes series.
In many ways, 1997 was a difficult summer for Robert, with just 8 wickets in the series, and a highly publicised contretemp with Essex's Mark Ilott in the hotly-contested Nat West semi-final at Chelmsford. But to Robert's delight, Glamorgan became County Champions and the Welshman spent the 1997/98 winter on tour with the England side in Sharjah and the West Indies. He had limited opportunities in the Caribbean, but returned to the England side for the first three Tests of the series with the South Africans. He was unlucky not to pick up some wickets, and despite a courageous and match-saving innings of 37* in the Third Test at Old Trafford, Croft was dropped from the England Test side. He returned for the one-day triangular series with the Springboks and the Sri Lankans, and featured in the One Day Triangular series with Australia and Sri Lanka after being overlooked for a regular place in the England side during the 1998/99 Ashes tour. Even so, he still managed to equal the club record for Test appearances when he won his 15th Test cap during the Ashes series. In March 1999, Croft was named in England`s party for the World Cup, and later became the first home-grown Glamorgan player to feature in the competition. However, he missed out on a place in the England side in the Test series with New Zealand, and the winter tour to South Africa.
After a winter`s break, Croft regained his England place in 2000, his Benefit season, and at Edgbaston against the West Indians, he won his 16th Test cap - a new Glamorgan record. In the winter of 2000/01 Croft formed a useful pairing with Ashley Giles as England had a successful tour of Sri Lanka, and on returning home, he also appeared in the Ashes series against Australia.
Security fears in the aftermath of 9/11 saw Robert withdraw from the England side to tour India in November 2001, and for the next two years, Robert disappeared from the international scene. However, he continued to play with distinction at county level, and in 2002, with Steve James suffering from injury, Robert led Glamorgan to the National League title in 2002.
Croft took over as Glamorgan`s captain in 2003 after James stood down owing to a long-standing knee injury, and he ended the summer as the country`s most successful all-rounder. After a Man-of-the-Match performance in the Hong Kong Sixes, Robert was recalled to the England squad for the tour to Sri Lanka in 2003/04. However, he only bowled 14 overs on the tour, and did not play in any of the Tests.
In January 2004 Croft announced his retirement from International cricket, and then proceeded to lead Glamorgan to considerable one-day success as well as promotion back into Division One of the County Championship. Croft`s side won the totesport League, with the captain typically leading by example, with both bat and ball, and in particular, he scored a match-winning 106 against Lancashire at Colwyn Bay in the game that decided the outcome of the one-day league title.
Croft also lead Glamorgan to the finals day of the Twenty20 competition and his all-round efforts were recognised by "The Cricket Society" as he was named the winner of the Weatherall Award for being the leading all-rounder in county cricket in 2004.
In September 2006, Croft stood down from the captaincy of Glamorgan, and when making his announcement he said "I have always believed that each person who holds, or has held the position, would know within themselves when the right time arrives to pass over the reins to another, someone who would view the needs of the Club with fresh eyes. I have held the position with unimaginable pride and experienced great moments both on and off the field.”
(Article: Copyright © 2007 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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