DateLine: 20th December 2005
At the age of 32, many thought Ian Austin’s chances of international selection had gone. However, as the England selector’s reverted to fielding one-day specialists, so Austin got his chance in 1998. He had been a key part of Lancashire’s limited-overs dominance in the 1990’s, with him being able to bowl blockhole deliveries at will in the closing overs of an innings. The best batsmen could do was hope to jam the bat down on it in time. If his ample girth and uncomplicated action were from the village green, so too was his blacksmith’s batting, although his thumping drives could be as effective at the death as his bowling was. All those factors combined to make Austin a massively popular player with the Old Trafford faithful, and to make him a cult figure in an era of bleep tests and scientifically formulated diets. International batsmen never found Austin as unplayable as his county contemporaries had, although he did bowl superbly in the opening match of the 1999 World Cup, taking 2-25 off 9 overs as Sri Lanka were defeated. Austin retired at the end of 2001, after his last couple of seasons had seen him become a limited-overs only player for Lancashire. This was something which had been a factor throughout his career though, as he played well over twice as many List A games as he did First-class. However, in First-class cricket his bowling average was only slightly higher than his batting, which showed that he wasn’t far off all-rounder status. Indeed, he had first joined Lancashire in 1986 as an occasionally bowling top-order batsman. Austin played for Cumberland in 2002, and league cricket in 2003 before finally retiring from cricket.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)