DateLine: 31st March 2005
In the future, cricket historians and archivists will look at the bowling statistics of Steve Kirby in the 2001 season and state his importance of Steve Kirby to Yorkshire’s first county championship title for 33 years. However, taking a purely statistical approach to Kirby’s impact obscures the fairytale like aspects to his story. If figures of 7-50 on debut were not stunning enough, then the circumstances of his debut only add another layer of fantasy. Called in as a mid match replacement for Matthew Hoggard (who himself had received a last minute call up by England), he proceeded to steamroller through a bewildered Kent. His Yorkshire colleagues may only have been slightly less startled by his impact (he’d only bowled 57 overs for the second XI before his first class debut, and he had to be both registered and roused from his Leicester home in a hurry). As aggressive as a red haired quick with a history of injury frustration (his time on the Leicestershire staff had been blighted by lengthy spells on the sidelines) had every right to be, he went on to take 47 championships wickets at 20.85, and such was his skill and fire that he came close to a call up as a pre-Harmison out and out quick against the Australian tourists of that year.
Like with all sporting fairy stories though, the glitter and glamour faded somewhat. The infamous second season syndrome seemed to kick in (37 first class wickets at 34), although a 2003 return of 67 wickets at 26 showed he was still a genuinely effective county spearhead. A winter at both the England Academy and at Dennis Lillee’s fast bowling school in Madras followed, although it was his misfortune that his stint there coincided with Harmison & Co sweeping all before them in the Caribbean. 2004 was another disappointing season for him – 31 first class wickets at 36 apiece and a recurring back problem. Despite this it was still a surprise when Kirby asked for, and was granted, his release from Yorkshire in September 2004. After weighing up several offers from county sides he chose Gloucestershire, and it will be intriguing to see whether a player who has had little real impact in one day cricket so far plays much of a part in their onslaught on the one day competitions over the next few years, or whether he will be treated as a championship specialist.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)