DateLine: 22nd November 2005
As befits a man whose life experiences stretched from Zambia to Derbyshire, Bruce Roberts had an interesting career. Born in Lusaka, he was educated across the border in Zimbabwe, and he began his First-class career in South Africa with Transvaal and Transvaal B. A season playing league cricket for Langley Mill, combined with English parentage, brought him to Derbyshire’s attention. Although he would develop into a top six batsman whose bowling was a fifth or sixth option, his early matches for Derbyshire were at no.8 with his bowling used as first or second change. After some hard hitting from the lower order, Roberts was deployed at no.4 for his second English season, and he repaid Derbyshire with his maiden century and by passing 1,000 First-class runs, although his bowling had now been firmly degraded to the ‘occasional’ category. Excellent seasons came in 1987 and 1990, although in between were fairly mediocre returns. He was almost an ever present in the Derbyshire side which captured the Sunday league in this season, and he made a valuable 45 from no.3 in the trophy clinching defeat of Essex, even if for entertainment value it didn’t match the brutal assault he launched on the spectators at Kynpersly while making 77* against Worcestershire earlier that season. Roberts played one First-class match early in 1991, and despite scoring 80 runs across two innings without being dismissed against Cambridge University he couldn’t force himself into a top six which now contained the peerless Mohammad Azharuddin as well as the improving Chris Adams and Tim O’Gorman. Despite playing a handful of limited-overs matches that season, he had simply faded from the Derbyshire picture, although after a gap of three seasons he re-appeared in South African limited-overs domestic cricket for Border. The sheer brutality of Roberts at his batting best contrasted with his quiet, undemonstrative demeanour and his bespectacled early appearances for Derbyshire. As with every other player, he could potentially have achieved more, and perhaps the fading of his bowling had an adverse affect on his batting by increasing it’s importance. Bruce Roberts is now cricket professional at Hilton College in South Africa, one of the continents finest boy’s schools.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)