Steve James made his Glamorgan debut at the end of the 1985 season although heavy rain and the abandonment of the match with Sussex meant that he never actually got onto the field. The Lydney-born batsman read Classics at Swansea University before becoming a postgraduate at Cambridge where he won a cricket Blue in 1989 and 1990 and came close to winning a place in the varsity rugby side.
After leaving Cambridge, James won a place as Hugh Morris' opening partner and he developed into an opening batsman at home in both one-day and four day cricket. His versatility was confirmed in 1995, when he hit an unbeaten 230 at Leicester and finished the season as the country's leading run scorer in the Sunday League. His quick running between the wickets and selection of deft strokes have been a feature of the former Monmouth schoolboy's play, and his ability to play a long innings was evident in a career-best 235 against Nottinghamshire at Worksop in 1996, during which he aggregated 1766 runs in first-class cricket.
He continued to be a prolific scorer in 1997, amassing 1775 runs at an average of 68, and the mild mannered Glamorgan opener ended the season as the country's leading runscorer. During this golden summer, James hit 7 hundreds, including three in a row in August, plus avital century in the NatWest semi-fianl with Essex. His fine batting was a crucial factor behind Glamorgan's Championship success, yet remarkably, James was overlooked by the England selectors.
James acted as vice-captain of the England A team in East Africa and Sri Lanka in 1997/98, and continued to be a prolific run-scorer in county cricket in 1998. During the series with South Africa, James, at long last, was drafted into the England side, and he won a second cap in the one-off Test with Sri Lanka.
In 1999 he struck a career best 259* against Nottinghamshire at Colwyn Bay - at the time, the third highest score for Glamorgan - and his fifth century in six innings against the opponents. The North Wales resort continued to be a happy hunting ground for Steve in 2000 as he scored 309* against Sussex - the highest ever score in the club`s history and a monumental effort which saw James almost re-write Glamorgan`s record books during his marathon innings.
At the end of the 2000 season, James was promoted to the captaincy for 2001, following Matthew Maynard`s decision to stand down as Glamorgan captain. 2001 was also Steve`s Benefit Year, and he rounded off a fine year with a record Benefit, as well as leading Glamorgan to the Norwich Union Division Two title. He then followed this in 2002 by leading Glamorgan to the Division One title, although a broken finger resulted in Steve missing the final couple of games as Glamorgan won the League competition.
In 2001 Steve sustained a knee injury during a Benson and Hedges Cup match against Gloucestershire at Bristol. Despite a series of keyhole surgery operations, he aggravated the injury after the opening match of the 2003 season, and even though he had a reconstructive operation on his patella during 2003, Steve was unable to regain full fitness, and in February 2004, he announced his retirement from the first-class game.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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